You must have come across the term phishing, and you were clueless as to what this word meant. Well, don’t sweat it out. In this guide, we will tell you what phishing is, and things you can do to avoid phishing. Read through this guide and you’ll find out what phishing is.
What is Phishing?
In simple terms, phishing is a type of cyber-security attack that happens when malicious actors send messages pretending to be a trusted person or entity. Phishing messages manipulate a user, causing them to perform actions like installing a malicious file, clicking a malicious link, or divulging sensitive information such as access credentials. Phishing is the most common type of social engineering, which is a general term describing, attempts to manipulate or trick computer users.
Social engineering is an increasingly common threat vector used in almost all security incidents. Social engineering attacks, like phishing, are often combined with other threats, such as malware, code injection, and network attacks.
An attack can have devastating results for individuals, these include unauthorized purchases, the stealing of funds, or identify theft.
Moreover, phishing is often used to gain a foothold in corporate or governmental networks as a part of a larger attack, such as an advanced persistent threat (APT) event. In this latter scenario, employees are compromised in order to bypass security perimeters, distribute malware inside a closed environment, or gain privileged access to secured data.
How does Phishing work?
Anyone who uses the internet or phones can be a target for phishing scammers.
Phishing scams normally try to:
- Infect your device with malware
- Steal your private credentials to get your money or identity
- Obtain control of your online accounts
- Convince you to willingly send money or valuables
Sometimes these threats don’t stop with just you. If a hacker gets into your email, contact list, or social media, they can spam people you know with phishing messages seemingly from you.
Trust and urgency are what make phishing so deceiving and dangerous. If the criminal can convince you to trust them and to take action before thinking — you’re an easy target.
Who is at risk of Phishing attacks?
Phishing can affect anyone of any age, whether in their personal life or in the workplace.
Everyone from the elderly to young children is using internet devices nowadays. If a scammer can find your contact information publicly, they can add it to their phishing target list.
Your phone number, email address, online messaging IDs, and social media accounts are harder to hide nowadays. So, there’s a good chance that just having one of these makes you a target. Plus, phishing attacks can be broad or highly targeted in the people they choose to trick.
Types Of Phishing Attacks Against Businesses
One of the most common forms of phishing is where attackers impersonate your brand. This is typically done with an email connected to a domain very similar to the target company (e.g., “first.name@amazon-support”). It’s also a difficult attack for companies to look out for due to the fact that you won’t know until someone falls for it or alerts you.
This type of scheme involves using a fake company name (impersonation) but also key details about the target. Muck like in sales, a rep finds the name, position, and other personalization and includes that in a pitch email. Attackers find those same tokens and use it to compel more victims into their trap. It’s an especially dangerous ploy.
Email Account Takeover
All members of your executive and management team are vulnerable. If a phishing scammer acquires the email credentials of high-profile leadership, it’s likely they’ll target anyone they can using that very email address. Potential targets would-be colleagues, team members, and even customers (if they’ve already obtained this information via a hack).
Similar to the email account takeover scam, this phishing attack is done via email. The difference is the phishing scammer uses an email address that resembles a legitimate email address, person, or company. The email will include a request to click a link, change a password, send a payment, respond with sensitive information, or open a file attachment.
Phone Phishing Or Voice Phishing
Using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, scammers, again, impersonate companies. This technique also employs the other types of phishing including using personal details about targets and impersonating individuals of the company (e.g., the CEO) in order to get a higher take on the overall scam.
To help businesses better understand how they can work to avoid falling victim to phishing attacks, we asked a number of security experts to share their views on the most common ways that companies are subjected to phishing attacks and how businesses can prevent them.
What are the Signs of Phishing?
Threats or a Sense of Urgency
Emails that threaten negative consequences should always be treated with skepticism. Another strategy is to use urgency to encourage or demand immediate action. Phishers hope that by reading the email in a hurry, they will not thoroughly scrutinize the content and will not discover inconsistencies.
An immediate indication of phishing is that a message is written with inappropriate language or tone. If, for example, a colleague from work sounds overly casual, or a close friend uses formal language, this should trigger suspicion. Recipients of the message should check for anything else that could indicate a phishing message.
If an email requires you to perform non-standard actions, it could indicate that the email is malicious. For example, if an email claims to be from a specific IT team and asks for software to be installed, but these activities are usually handled centrally by the IT department, the email is probably malicious.
Misspellings and grammatical misuse are other signs of phishing emails. Most companies have set up spell-checking in their email clients for outgoing emails. Therefore, emails with spelling or grammatical errors should raise suspicion, as they may not originate from the claimed source.
Inconsistencies in Web Addresses
Another easy way to identify potential phishing attacks is to look for mismatched email addresses, links, and domain names. For example, it’s a good idea to check a previous communication that matches the sender’s email address.
Recipients should always hover over a link in an email before clicking it, to see the actual link destination. If the email is believed to be sent by Bank of America, but the domain of the email address does not contain “bankofamerica.com”, that is a sign of a phishing email.
There are various phishing techniques used by attackers
- Embedding a link in an email that redirects your employee to an unsecured website that requests sensitive information
- Installing a Trojan via a malicious email attachment or ad will allow the intruder to exploit loopholes and obtain sensitive information
- Spoofing the sender’s address in an email to appear as a reputable source and request sensitive information
- Attempting to obtain company information over the phone by impersonating a known company vendor or IT department
Ways to Protect Your Organization from Phishing Attacks
Here are a few ways your organization can reduce the risk of phishing attacks.
- Employee Awareness Training
It is paramount to train employees to understand phishing strategies, identify signs of phishing, and report suspicious incidents to the security team.
Similarly, organizations should encourage employees to look for trust badges or stickers from well-known cyber security or antivirus companies before interacting with a website. This shows that the website is serious about security, and is probably not fake or malicious.
- Deploy Email Security Solutions
Modern email filtering solutions can protect against malware and other malicious payloads in email messages. Solutions can detect emails that contain malicious links, attachments, spam content, and language that could suggest a phishing attack.
Email security solutions automatically block and quarantine suspicious emails and use sandboxing technology to “detonate” emails to check if they contain malicious code.
- Make Use of Endpoint Monitoring and Protection
The increasing use of cloud services and personal devices in the workplace has introduced many new endpoints that may not be fully protected. Security teams must assume that some endpoints will be breached by endpoint attacks. it is essential to monitor endpoints for security threats and implement rapid remediation and response on compromised devices.
- Conduct Phishing Attack Tests
Simulated phishing attack testing can help security teams evaluate the effectiveness of security awareness training programs, and help end users better understand attacks. Even if your employees are good at finding suspicious messages, they should be tested regularly to mimic real phishing attacks. The threat landscape continues to evolve, and cyber-attack simulations must also evolve.
- Limit User Access to High-Value Systems and Data
Most phishing methods are designed to trick human operators, and privileged user accounts are attractive targets for cybercriminals. Restricting access to systems and data can help protect sensitive data from leakage. Use the principle of least privilege and only give access to users who absolutely need it.
Finally, phishing can have lethal effects on one’s organization, so it is important that we carry out maintenance checks from time to time. Also, keep an eye for all the phishing techniques so you would be able to spot a scammer when you see one.