Complete Guide to Phishing for Businesses: What is Phishing? Protect Your Organization From Phishing Attacks

Chances are you’re familiar with phishing - the prominent email attack that deceives recipients to gain access to their confidential information, often resulting in significant downtime, data theft, loss of revenue, and severe reputational harm.

That being said, understanding how phishing works, how to recognize a phishing email, and some tips and best practices you can implement to prevent attacks are critical in securing business email against this notorious threat that accounts for over 90% of all cyberattacks. Here’s what you need to know about phishing and phishing protection to secure your users and critical business assets against this dangerous scam.

What Is Email Phishing & How Does This Scam Work?

Phishing is a type of digital attack frequently carried out via email. Threat actors use a spoofed email address or an account compromised in a previous attack to send malicious emails to trick users into falling for a scam. The motive behind a phishing campaign is typically to get people to reveal financial information, credentials, or other sensitive data. While sending out spam emails in bulk is a tactic that is commonly used by cybercriminals in generic, large-scale campaigns, phishers are now shifting in favor of targeted, well-researched attacks. Modern phishing campaigns often employ social engineering or techniques to manipulate psychology. These deceptive tactics encourage recipients to act rapidly without stopping to think. 

Phishing is a prevalent method of attack because it is cheap, easy, and effective. Phishing scams are free for attackers but carry hefty costs for their targets. Victims frequently face data loss, identity theft or malware infections, significant recovery costs, and damaged reputations.

What Are Some Common Types of Phishing Attacks?

Digital threats are rapidly evolving - and phishing is no exception. Since phishing was first described in 1987, attackers have developed various highly specialized tactics to deceive victims and gain access to sensitive data that can be monetized for personal gain. Some of the most pervasive types of modern phishing attacks include:

  • Standard Email Phishing: Arguably the most notorious form of phishing, this attack is an attempt to steal sensitive information via an email that appears to be from a legitimate, trusted source. Standard email phishing is not a targeted attack and is often conducted en masse.
  • Spear Phishing: Spear phishing is a highly targeted version of phishing that involves sending fraudulent emails that appear to be from a known or trusted sender to obtain sensitive information. Spear phishing is becoming increasingly common because it is generally even more successful than conventional phishing in deceiving recipients. As opposed to sending hundreds of thousands of relatively generic emails at a time, spear phishing campaigns involve researching victims and using advanced intelligence strategies to compose just a thousand convincing messages.
  • Malware Phishing: This attack utilizes the same techniques as email phishing; however, malware phishing aims to trick targets into clicking a link or downloading an attachment so malware can be installed on their devices. Malware phishing is currently the most pervasive form of phishing attack.
  • Business email compromise (BEC): The BEC scam involves an attacker obtaining access to a corporate email account and sending fraudulent emails under the identity of the account owner to steal money from the company or its employees, partners, or customers.
  • Clone Phishing: Clone phishing involves a malicious actor compromising someone’s email account, changing an existing email by swapping a legitimate link, attachment, or another element with a malicious one, and sending the malicious email to the person’s contacts to spread the infection.
  • Man-in-the-Middle Attack: A man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack describes a scenario in which an eavesdropper monitors correspondence between two unsuspecting parties. These attacks are often carried out by creating phony public WiFi networks. Once joined, the “man in the middle” can phish for valuable data or infect devices with malware.

Tips & Best Practices for Recognizing and Avoiding Phishing Emails

Education and awareness are critical when it comes to phishing protection. Although phishing messages can be highly deceptive and difficult to detect, there are various best practices that you should implement to avoid taking the bait in a phishing attack. They include:

  • Check for spelling and grammatical errors that indicate an email is fraudulent or malicious.
  • Keep an eye out for suspicious subject lines and signatures.
  • Don’t trust the display name. Just because an email says it’s from a known and trusted sender doesn’t necessarily mean it is. The message could come from a compromised account, even if the email address is legitimate.
  • Be cautious of nonspecific language. Phishers typically use vague language in their campaigns to evade spam filters.
  • If an email appears strange in any way, call the sender to confirm the email's legitimacy.
  • If you receive an email from a source you know that seems suspicious, contact that source with a new email rather than just hitting reply.
  • Beware of urgency. Phishing emails often convince recipients to act quickly without thinking things through.
  • Scan all attachments for viruses or dangerous code.
  • Verify shared links to ensure they do not lead to fraudulent websites or malicious code.
  • Provide or take part in security awareness training designed to educate employees on how to identify spear phishing emails and how to proceed if they feel that they have received a malicious email.
  • Think before you act! Evaluate each email you receive before clicking on links or downloading attachments. For example, ask yourself: Does an order confirmation email you’ve received correspond to a recent purchase you have made? Do the sender and recipient addresses make sense?

Can You Spot the Phish?

The image below is a spear phishing email identified and quarantined by Guardian Digital EnGarde Cloud Email Security. It mimics a legitimate FedEx shipment confirmation email very closely. Can you spot the phish?
Guardian fedex fraud retouch

Some indications that this is a fraudulent email include the following: 

  1. An invalid “From” email address
  2. Invalid tracking information which differs in the subject and the body of the email
  3. A malicious attachment in the bottom left corner - FedEx does not send tracking information in the form of an attachment

Safeguard against Human Error with a Comprehensive, Adaptive Email Security Solution

User education can help reduce the likelihood of a successful phishing attack; however, human behavior is ultimately unpredictable. Thus, to effectively protect against phishing, a safeguarded environment must be built around the user. This can be achieved through a comprehensive, intuitive email security solution that identifies and blocks the most stealthy spear phishing attempts in real time.

Email security expert and Guardian Digital CEO Dave Wreski states, “Engaging in email security best practices is important, but this alone will not prevent a successful phishing attack. A fully integrated email security solution that delivers total end-to-end control is critical to safeguard business email accounts. An effective solution must provide real-time protection against phishing and other advanced email threats while continuously adapting to a changing business and security environment.” 


Secure Business Email against Phishing & Other Malicious Threats with Proactive, Layered Protection

Guardian Digital EnGarde Cloud Email Security provides multi-layered real-time protection against the most targeted and sophisticated phishing scams, coupled with the expert system monitoring, maintenance, and support required to keep your users and critical assets safe. Key features and functionalities of EnGarde’s phishing protection include:

  • Spoofing and impersonation protection
  • Malware and ransomware protection
  • Zero-day attack protection
  • Multi-layered design powered by open-source technology - the same technology that powers the Internet itself
  • Dynamic link and file analysis
  • Heuristics-based spam and virus protection
  • SPF, DKIM, and DMARC checking
  • End-to-end encryption
  • Comprehensive management and support services

Keep Learning About Phishing Prevention

Phishing prevention can be difficult, but by following the tips and advice outlined in this article you can greatly minimize your risk of falling victim to digital scammers.

  • Learn more about an effective email security solution that understands the relationships you have with other people while gaining a deeper knowledge of the types of conversations you have with them.
  • Prepare your business for cyberattacks to make sure employees stay safe online.
  • Improve your email security posture to protect against attacks and breaches by following best practices.
  • Keeping the integrity of your email safe requires securing the cloud with spam filtering and enterprise-grade anti-spam services.
  • Get the latest updates on how to stay safe online.

Want to learn more about phishing and how to protect your users and key assets with intuitive, layered supplementary email protection?

Download Our Phishing eBook >

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