Cybercriminals are ruthless, looking for possible entry points to gain access and wreak havoc; and of all types of cybercrime, phishing remains the most common attack vector. Statistics vary, but it is estimated that 83% of organizations have experienced a phishing attack, with an estimated 1% (1 in every 99 emails sent) part of a phishing scheme.
While that 1% might not seem like a large figure, consider that around 330 billion emails are sent each day. Moreover, email is but one route to launch a phishing cyberattack, as there can also be phishing text messages, called smishing. Phishing is often mischaracterized as clumsy, but that belies the fact that phishing is often sophisticated, not to mention highly effective. It’s for that reason criminals keep returning to this tried and tested method of cyberattack.
Phishing attacks cause damage, predominantly financial – but not only. Other consequences include the loss of current and potential customers and can even lead to the total closure of a business when clients lose trust in a company that has been subject to a phishing attack. But make no mistake, the financial repercussions can be huge, with theft ranging from minor breaches, totaling up to millions, to mega attacks, costing companies hundreds of millions of dollars.
Secure your business with Anti-Phishing Strategies
It’s advisable that any business, whether it be large or small, implement best practices for phishing prevention. This requires action on several fronts: Providing tips on how to spot phishing threats; the implementation of safeguards, including installing anti-phishing software; and the promotion of a security-first culture in the workplace. Below, we will look at some of the main areas a modern business should be considering for anti-phishing best practices.
Establish Training & Security Policies
The implementation of employee training programs is one of the most effective tools to combat phishing scams. Phishing is a type of cybercrime based on social engineering, which suggests that the weakest link in your defenses is always the people in the organization. Whether through human error or thoughtlessness, human mistakes are often at the root of allowing cybercriminals access to your data. Giving your employees the proper training can help them spot the signs of a phishing attack and better keep your data and systems safe.
Test Your Employees
Remember, though, the most effective phishing techniques will trick the user when personal information is already dangled in front of them. While supplying employees with literature on anti-phishing techniques is good, one popular method advocated by business leaders that may be even more effective is to carry out a secret drill. In essence, this entails sending “fake” phishing emails or text messages as a test. After analyzing the results (who opened the messages, who didn’t), provide retraining where necessary.
Implement a Strong Password Policy
Of course, all businesses should have an effective IT security policy. While each business has different security needs, there are many universal security policies that ideally will be put into operation. Top of the list is arguably a password policy. Strong, unique passwords that are regularly updated can provide a solid barrier against phishing. These secure passwords act to thwart access to information that helps cybercriminals gain insight into your employees or business.
Close the Door to Phishing with Company Policies
In addition, there are other security policies that could be put in place related to passwords, including the use of two-factor authentication (2FA) and the use of a password manager. As well as password protections, your business might consider handpicking the websites that can be accessed on your systems and implementing policies regarding personal devices being used for business-related activities.
There should also be rules – or at least awareness about – the dangers of using public Wi-Fi, public networks, and public computers. Letting your team know that public Wi-Fi can be an open door to cyber scams is an important part of user education, and prohibiting the use of these open doors when conducting business activities may be an appropriate policy for your staff.
Push for a Workplace Culture of Security Awareness
Promoting a workplace security culture and boosting awareness of phishing scams might be the most difficult part of an anti-phishing strategy to implement. Why? Because it demands that all staff members buy into the idea that phishing prevention is important. However, with proper training and enforcement, creating this culture can help fortify your business against any attack.
Skepticism as an Anti-Phishing Approach
A good place to start is by promoting the idea of skepticism when dealing with correspondence, particularly from unknown sources. For example, one tactic might be something simple like asking employees to double-check an email address before opening a link or paying extra attention to greetings. Generic greetings (“Hi!”), rather than addressing the employee by name, can be a classic sign of phishing or other scams. Similarly, another good practice is demanding that staff check the authenticity of a sender via a call to the sending entity before clicking on a provided link. And very important, be sure your employees will take extra care to verify the legitimacy and authenticity of texts and email messages when the requested action requires the giving out of sensitive information related to your business.
If your employees have received sufficient training and have bought into the culture of security in the workplace, they should be able to spot the signs of phishing. For instance, they might get into the habit of hovering over a hyperlink with a mouse (in order to see the full URL) or refrain from clicking on short links, which is a common attack vector for phishing. Viewing the entire URL is important as it is one simple way to check if the company behind the link has SSL certification.
Verify SSL Certification
SSL is an encryption protocol securing data sent between computers, preventing the information from being incepted by scammers. Websites protected by SSL certificates will appear in links in an email and in your browser with an HTTPS:/ at the beginning of the URL. Also, when appearing in a browser, these URLs will be preceded by a small padlock. While it only takes a moment to check if a website has an SSL certificate, that moment can certainly make all the difference in knowing that a company is working to protect customers’ data and provide a more secure experience for users.
Employ Anti-Phishing Software
While training and robust security policies will help prevent phishing, the best protection comes from dedicated anti-phishing software. ZoneAlarm Extreme Security NextGen is an affordable and effective security suite, with unique anti-phishing capabilities that act to identify threats in real time. This means the software will actively prevent the delivery of sensitive information through typing as it checks the veracity of websites. Of course, phishing is not the only threat to the security of a modern business – far from it – and with a trusted software security product like ZoneAlarm, you’ll also get protection from viruses and ransomware.
Spam Filters, Encryption, Firewalls and Backups
Alongside your anti-phishing software package, your business should also use tools and protocols to prevent phishing attacks. These include the use of spam filters in business email accounts; verifying that your business’ computers and employees’ mobile phones are updated with the latest software and operating systems; encrypting and backing up sensitive business files; and ensuring that the proper firewalls are installed on company IT architecture. For cybersecurity solutions for the workplace, including those listed above, visit Check Point Software Technologies Ltd.
Spam is essentially unwanted, unrequested bulk email. It clogs up users’ email and steals precious time. You can prevent unwelcome email from filling your Inbox by setting parameters in your junk mail filters within your email program or via a toolbar add-in. Discuss with your IT team or consultant the need to update your hardware with the latest software and operating systems, as well as the need to keep all private files backed up and encrypted. If you don’t already have firewalls installed, look for firewall protection like ZoneAlarm Extreme Security NextGen, which protects your systems from both inbound and outbound attacks.
The Phishing Threat Is Real, But It’s Preventable
There are potentially billions of phishing attacks that take place each day. Many will go unnoticed, heading straight to a spam folder or are blocked by other means, but some might slip through the net. When they do, you are most likely relying on the ability of an employee to spot the signs of phishing and handle it properly. If the worst happens, that the dangerous email does land in your employees’ inbox, and it isn’t stopped, you may be looking face to face with a detrimental effect on the business. Strong leadership in security, training, workplace culture, and the use of anti-phishing solution will help eliminate the threat of this common and dangerous – but nevertheless sophisticated and effective – type of cyberattack.