Email Security Intelligence - 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 in order to gain access to confidential information, often resulting in significant website downtime, data loss, revenue decreases, and severe reputational harm.

That being said, by understanding various types of phishing attacks and how they work, how to recognize a phishing email, and tips and best practices for email security, you can prevent phishing email attacks. Ensuring your business has a secure email is critical in preventing any threat from harming your system, especially email threats, since they account 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 digital attack frequently carried out via email. Threat actors use spoofed email addresses or compromised accounts from previous attacks to send malicious emails. Typically, a phishing attack tricks users into falling for a scam. Phishing campaigns typically aim to get people to reveal financial information, credentials, or other sensitive data. While sending out spam emails in bulk is commonly used for large-scale, generic phishing campaigns, cybercriminals have shifted to favor targeted, well-researched attacks. Modern phishing campaigns often employ social engineering techniques to manipulate a person’s psychology and encourage recipients to act rapidly without stopping to think. 

Phishing is a prevalent method for email threats 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 company reputations.

What Are Some Common Types of Phishing Attacks?

Digital threats are rapidly evolving - and phishing is no exception. Since it was discovered in 1987, attackers have developed various highly specialized tactics in order to deceive victims and gain access to sensitive data that can be monetized for personal gain. Some of the most pervasive modern types of 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. Generally more successful than conventional phishing, spear phishing emails have become more common, as they can easily deceive recipients and obtain information in return. 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 a thousand convincing messages.
  • Malware Phishing: This attack utilizes the same techniques as typical 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 type of phishing attack.
  • Business Email Compromise (BEC): A Business Email Compromise scam involves a company’s compromised email address, which an attacker uses to send fraudulent emails. Cybercriminals assume the identity of the account owner to steal money from the company, its employees, its partners, or its customers.
  • Clone Phishing: Clone phishing involves a malicious actor compromising someone’s email account, changing an existing email by swapping a legitimate link or attachment with a malicious one, and then sending the spoofed email to the person’s contacts in order to spread the infection.
  • Man-in-the-Middle Attack: A Man-In-The-Middle (MITM) attack describes a scenario in which an eavesdropper monitors correspondences between two unsuspecting parties. These types of phishing 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

Email security training, education, and awareness are critical regarding phishing protection. Although phishing messages can be highly deceptive and difficult to detect, there are various best practices for email security that you should implement to avoid taking the bait in a phishing attack. These include:

  • Checking for spelling and grammatical errors that indicate an email is fraudulent or malicious.
  • Keep an eye out for suspicious subject lines and signatures.
  • Not trusting the display name. Just because an email appears from a known and trusted sender doesn’t necessarily mean it is. The message could come from a compromised email address, even if the account is legitimate.
  • Being cautious of nonspecific language. Phishers typically use vague language in their campaigns to evade spam filters.
  • Calling the sender to confirm the legitimacy of an email if it appears strange in any way.
  • Contacting the source in a new email chain (rather than just hitting reply) if the sender seems suspicious.
  • Being aware of the urgency. Phishing emails often convince recipients to act quickly without thinking through things.
  • Scanning all attachments for viruses or dangerous code.
  • Verifying shared links to ensure they do not lead to fraudulent websites or malicious code.
  • Providing or taking part in email security 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.
  • Thinking before you act! Evaluate each email you receive before clicking on links or downloading attachments. 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 one of various spear phishing emails 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?

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

Email security awareness education can help reduce the likelihood of a successful phishing attack; however, human behavior is ultimately unpredictable. Thus, to effectively ensure phishing protection, a safeguarded environment must be built around the user. This can be achieved through a comprehensive, intuitive email security software solution that identifies and blocks the most stealthy spear phishing emails and 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 with a Cloud-Based Protection Systemengardeshieldtransparent.png

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:

  • Email spoofing and impersonation protection
  • Ransomware and malware 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 anti-spam and anti-virus protection
  • SPF, DKIM, and DMARC email checking
  • End-to-end encryption
  • Comprehensive management and supportive email security services

Keep Learning About Phishing Prevention

Phishing prevention can be difficult, but following the tips and advice outlined in this article 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 business?

Download Our Phishing eBook >

Must Read Blog Posts

Phishing Is Evolving

Are Your Current Email Defenses Falling Behind?

Get the Guide

Latest Blog Articles