How to identify and avoid holiday phishing scams

The holiday season can leave online shoppers stressed and overwhelmed. Unfortunately, cybercriminals take advantage of these feelings to exploit user weaknesses during phishing email attacks and other scams.

Threat actors lure employees into providing sensitive login credentials and business information so hackers can access confidential files. Phishing attacks have become an incredibly prevalent type of threat as the number of remote workers increases every year following the pandemic. Therefore, online vulnerabilities from misconfigured cybersecurity platforms leave more users and companies at risk of email security breaches as time continues.

Phishing attacks are even more of an issue during the holidays since customers suffer data loss, financial theft, and significant downtime in one of the busiest times of the year. This article will review phishing, the most popular and dangerous holiday scams, and some tips you can use to mitigate email security risks this holiday season.

What is Phishing?

phishingPhishing refers to a scam where a threat actor impersonates a trustworthy website, organization, or individual in a widespread attempt to trick targets into inputting sensitive data into a maliciously coded message, link, or attachment. You will find most phishing attacks through fraudulent and deceptive emails. These messages could appear believable if the hacker uses a spoofed email, compromised account, or altered headline that you may not even blink twice at when responding. Phishing email attacks steal login credentials and infect systems with malware and various types of ransomware.

Cybercriminals have favored phishing email threats for decades, which we can tell from it accounting for ninety percent of cyberattacks businesses face. Phishing emails traditionally rely on malicious URLs and attachments. Still, attacks have adopted social engineering techniques that make threats more sophisticated and targeted, making them more challenging to detect as they manipulate victim psychology. Fileless malware can evade detection, so many hackers use it during email security breaches.

As remote workplace environments grow in popularity, so does cybercriminals' persistence in creating and executing successful phishing attacks. Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace accommodate communication and collaboration needs for workers who can use these cloud email servers to maintain business strength. However, these servers tend to be relatively uniform in their setups, making it easy for threat actors to replicate harmful attacks across multiple company's cybersecurity platforms. Hackers can easily access online environments with their phishing campaigns despite the supposedly robust built-in email security defenses. Osterman Research reports that forty percent of Microsoft 365 users experienced credential theft.

What Four Holiday Phishing Scams Should I Look Out For?

While phishing attacks remain an email threat year-round, the holiday season always heightens online risks. Therefore, you must know the most common phishing scams you might encounter during the winter. Here are four you should look out for:

Fraudulent Shipping Notifications

The pandemic's impact encouraged more people to shop online. While the convenience of such a thing is excellent, more and more phishing email attacks come in the form of false shipping emails with fraudulent links for you to open to track your packages and see an order's status. Upon opening such notifications, malicious code could harvest your login credentials, capture keystrokes on your phone or computer, install malware ransomware, or steal data to use for personal gain.

Gift Card and Coupon Scams

As online shopping becomes more popular, having digital coupons becomes a necessity. However, threat actors exploit shoppers' demands for coupons and gift cards. Hackers will create scam emails that generate a sense of urgency in victims who must act fast to get a great deal on a popular product. Attackers will input fraudulent links where users will input gift cards and coupon codes that hackers take and use to purchase other items.

Travel Scams

Following the stressful pandemic events, many people booked safe and relaxing holidays. However, phishers might send false notification emails informing the victim of a flight cancellation. Threat actors request that users open forms or links to input information to get a refund, which is the hacker's way of getting login credentials. Additionally, travel scam attacks typically impersonate airlines to offer free tickets in exchange for advertising.

Charity Fraud

In these email threats, threat actors deceive victims by convincing them that their donations are going to legitimate charities to assist pandemic research, relief efforts, and other charitable needs. Hackers take advantage of the dire situation to make victims believe they are helping a great cause, only for their money to go straight to a hacker. Phishing email scams from these malicious actors request more donations, which unsuspecting targets might contribute.

How Can I Avoid Holiday Phishing Scams? Tips & Advice

cybersec tipsWhether you are an individual or working for a company, you must have a certain degree of email security awareness when ordering online or negotiating deals digitally this season. Here are a variety of suggestions we have for you to consider when preventing phishing attacks:

  • Avoid opening emails from suspicious, possibly compromised accounts, including e-commerce emails with generic domains.
  • Remember that shipping details are always in the body, so never open an external link that could lead to phishing pages.
  • Confirm the legitimacy of a charity before you consider donating.
  • Be cautious about emails that seem urgent or boast great deals on popular products.
  • Keep personal information to yourself unless you can trust the source asking.
  • Note spelling and grammatical errors, vague greetings, and odd signatures.
  • Encourage employees to go through email security training.

The Best Email Security Software to Protect You From Scams

Implementing a layered, supplementary email security software is the most efficient and effective way to guarantee email protection from phishing attacks and other threat types. Fortunately, Guardian Digital’s EnGarde Cloud Email Security solution fully manages email security services, malware URL scanners, and SPF, DKIM, and DMARC email authentication protocols, preventing email spoofing and sender fraud. These services can help protect your company from suspicious emails over the holidays, as they quarantine emails that could be untrustworthy so that your users never have to fall for a scam. EnGarde creates a safeguarded environment that mitigates email security risks due to misconfigurations and human error. Consider EnGarde this holiday season when deciding on a defense-in-depth approach to web and email protection.

Keep Learning About Holiday Phishing Scams

Phishing email attacks have become an even greater risk following the pandemic, having devastating consequences for any organization by negatively impacting a business's success. Data loss from email security breaches has cost companies up to $3.9 billion, according to Verizon.

These sophisticated, targeted, evasive modern phishing attacks require organizations to implement email security training into their onboarding process so that employees know what to do in the event of an attack so they can act smartly. Such knowledge can significantly improve your company's ability to avoid an attack effectively.

EnGarde Cloud Email Security software is a gift that can help the safety, success, and peace of a business and its employees. Consider utilizing these services when heading into the new year, and learn how to secure email against phishing attacks with these defenses.

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