Phishing emails are when an attacker, posing as a trusted source, sends fake messages designed to lure people into clicking on dangerous links, sending sensitive information, downloading spam files, or transferring money. Hackers invest a tremendous amount of effort into assuming the identity of a trusted source, ensuring that it’s you who lets them into the system. It can result in ransomware, data loss, unauthorized access of sensitive/protected data, or financial theft.

In addition to phishing emails, referring to messages broadcast to a wide audience, an elevated version is referred to as spear-phishing. They are personalized messages targeted at individuals, often ‘from’ someone in authority. They use information about the sender that they find on a corporate website or on social media, to gain the recipient’s trust. This is why we advise against sharing personal information on social media or your company website (nor using that info in your passwords!). These messages often ask for sensitive information to be sent or for money to be transferred.

Some red flags to look out for to avoid phishing emails are:

  • urgency
  • poor grammar
  • erroneous text
  • generic salutations
  • capitalization errors
  • fake/invalid email addresses
  • incorrect spelling
    • especially of proper nouns
  • unusual senders or calls-to-action
  • sent outside of normal business hours
  • malicious or unusual links
    • You can hover over links to preview the URL before clicking!

This hacking tactic is one of the most prominent “ways that hackers gain access to business networks and corporate data.” These attacks are increasing in occurrence for a few reasons:

  1. Remote/hybrid workforce: While the switch allowed operations to continue without interruption, the scattered workforce and mobile endpoints brought their own set of challenges. One of the main problems was/is vulnerabilities becoming more visible to hackers, who quickly exploited them through phishing attacks.
  2. Organizational oversights: Many businesses, in efforts to stay afloat amid the global crisis, completely disregarded cybersecurity. This included decreased spending on security posture, employee training, and much more. According to Thycotic’s 2021 Global Research Report, only 44% of surveyed employees received training in the past year. Such mistakes opened the door for cybercriminals.
  3. Constantly evolving cybercriminals: Google reported that 68% of phishing emails blocked by Gmail were new variations they’d never seen before. Hackers are constantly evolving to match advancements in technology, so you’re defending against a moving attacker.

All the while, according to KnowBe4’s 2021 State of Privacy and Security Awareness Report, less than half of surveyed employees understand and are able to explain phishing threats to others ‘very well.’ Therefore, training is imperative to keep your business safe. When a company is the victim of such an attack, they often suffer severe financial losses as well as a loss of market share, reputation and stakeholder trust.

So, what should you do to decrease your likelihood of attack? It’s time to adopt a proactive approach rather than a reactive one. You need to have a combined electronic and human line of defense. Electronic tools, powered by artificial intelligence, should be implemented to detect and block phishing emails. Additionally, your workforce should be trained and tested in avoiding phishing scams. You should facilitate regular security awareness training to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that employees strictly adhere to relevant security requirements. Additionally, ensure that your IT infrastructure is up to date so that hackers cannot exploit unpatched/non-updated systems, and enforce strong password policies.

Trying to guard against phishing on your own takes a lot of effort and resources, especially if you’re running a business. Collaborating with an expert like us relieves you of additional concern and responsibility. With our Security Package, we’ll provide training (featuring mock phishing drills) and tests for all client employees, as well as enable them to independently report phishing emails. We also utilize 24/7 AI-based email monitoring and anti-spam for your Outlook365 to combat phishing, spear-phishing, intruders & imposters, and bad links. Lastly, we handle updates and patches for you and offer a password manager. Contact us today to set up a consultation and we’ll handle the heavy lifting for you.

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