Cyberattacks range from simple to sophisticated. A hacker could bluntly try to guess your password or they could do something like eavesdrop on your traffic to collect the necessary information. Among the various forms of cyberattack, however, phishing is one of the most common.
Phishing is a social engineering tactic used to trick victims into giving out sensitive information. These attacks are most often carried out through emails. Since they are specifically designed to deceive the recipient, phishing emails are made to look as legitimate as possible. The best way to protect yourself from phishing is by learning how to spot a phishing email.
It’s believed that the first phishing attack in history occurred sometime in the mid-1990s. These early attempts, while crude, were effective because we had not seen anything like it. Similar to other cyberthreats, phishing has evolved greatly since it began. Today’s phishing attacks are more intricate, enticing, and harder to spot.
Despite its evolution, it’s far from impossible to avoid phishing attacks. In fact, knowing what a phishing email looks like or at least understanding the typical categories they fall into can give you the awareness you need to protect yourself. Here are a few common phishing scenarios you should know about.
You and your coworkers likely have access to a countless number of accounts, both professionally and personally. If you suddenly received an email notification claiming an important account was deactivated, you’d probably check to see why it was deactivated. Hackers are counting on you to investigate by clicking the malicious link they provided in the email.
If the hacker knows that you made a recent purchase, they could use that information to their advantage. Say you used your Chase card to buy a new TV. With that knowledge, the cybercriminal may send you a message that appears as if it came from Chase customer service. The email may also say something like, “Your card was compromised, please confirm credit details to protect your account.”
If your company has an IT department, then you probably receive occasional emails from them regarding your IT. For example, they may notify you that your servers are going to be down for maintenance at a specific time. It’s easy to just go along with whatever they say since they are your technology experts. However, a hacker can easily mimic an internal email and request that you install “the latest update” for a program.
Imagine that your CEO or another executive is on travel and you receive an urgent email asking you to help them by transferring funds somewhere to secure a new partnership. What are you going to do? This type of phishing email is not only utilizing authority, but also telling you that the request is urgent. It’s not uncommon for a victim to panic in this scenario and send the money.
Sometimes it’s not the link in the email, but the destination. Some hackers create fake login pages and send phishing emails hoping to trick someone into logging into the fake website. The email may read something like, “We’ve updated our terms of service. Please log in to confirm your account.”
The key to defending your business from phishing threats is to build awareness. There are five steps you can follow to achieve this goal.
- Educate: Teach yourself and your colleagues about phishing, how it works, how to avoid it, and what to do if you become a victim.
- Train: First hand experience is the best teacher. Perform simulated phishing attacks that put your company’s cybersecurity education to the test.
- Communicate: Provide ongoing communication about phishing and cybersecurity in general.
- Filter: Use email filtering tools to process messages and block spam mail.
- Build a Culture: Make cybersecurity, awareness training, support, and more a part of your company culture.
Don’t be embarrassed if you fall victim to a phishing attack—they’re made to be difficult to spot. However, you do have to act quickly once you realize the link is malicious. In this scenario, there are six steps you need to follow:
- Stop Typing: The moment you realize you clicked on a fraudulent link or downloaded a malicious file, stop entering data immediately.
- Disconnect Your Device: First and foremost, you need to disconnect your device from the internet as soon as possible. This will reduce the risk of malware spreading to other devices on your network.
- Backup Your Files: Data can be destroyed when attempting to remove phishing malware from your device. Grab a thumb drive or an external hard drive and save your sensitive information.
- Scan: If you have an antivirus program on your device, run it and have it scan your system. Then have a professional perform another scan.
- Enable Web Filtering: Your browser should come equipped with web filtering tools. If you click on a phishing link, the filter blocks the malicious site before it has time to infect your device with malware.
- Change Login Information: Use a new device to change the credentials for your various accounts, because they may have been compromised after the infection.
CTMS specializes in cybersecurity. Our skilled team leverages advanced security tools and processes to ensure your data remains secure. We take pride in keeping you safe through our comprehensive services and providing the education you need to avoid the dangers of the web.
CTMS is a technology management provider based in Akron, Ohio. For years, our team has offered a variety of technical solutions for our partners in a wide range of industries. Our primary services are IT security, data backup, disaster recovery, and cloud computing, among a host of other IT consulting solutions.