Phishing is a form of cyberattack that uses emails, websites, and other electronic communications to trick recipients into giving away sensitive data. Recent reports have found phishing to be the second most expensive attack vector businesses must contend with, costing organizations an average of $4.65 million. In 2021, 83% of organizations experienced phishing attacks. In 2022, these numbers are expected to skyrocket.
Phishing emails are generally designed to look as legitimate as possible. The more professional the email appears the more likely a victim will believe its claims and click on dangerous links or attachments. If you doubt the legitimacy of an email, don’t click! Don’t open any attachments either—there’s no telling what could happen if you do. Training your employees on phishing techniques is a first step towards safeguarding your business against these attacks. This article and extensive resources available at IT Support Vermont will give you the tools you need to get started with anti-phishing training for your team.
Key Elements of Phishing Awareness Training
The best way to avoid phishing attacks is to take a proactive approach. Teach your employees how to identify phishing attempts; they will be more likely to recognize one if they receive it. Some of the most important things to know are:
Understand Phishing and the Impact of an Attack
Phishing attacks can be targeted at you personally or your company, but the result is the same. Identity is stolen by someone posing as another person, usually to gain access to personal information such as credit card numbers or bank account numbers.
Your personal information might be used to file fraudulent tax returns in your name or open new credit cards with high limits and low-interest rates, so the criminals can buy expensive items and throw away any bills when they come due. This leaves the victim holding the bag for thousands of dollars worth of debt while the thieves make away with ill-gotten gains. The implications can be dire if your company gets targeted by targeting employees’ email accounts and sending out messages from their accounts. Those emails might include attachments containing malware that infects computers when employees click on them.
The danger of Spoofed Email addresses
Spoofing email addresses makes it look like an email is from someone or somewhere else when these are being sent from another source. For example, if you see an email that comes from an address at your company, but you don’t recognize the sender’s name, this could be a sign that someone has spoofed their address to make it look like they work for your company.
Other things to watch out for are misspellings and bad grammar in messages or emails. If something doesn’t seem right about what’s being said, you should be cautious before clicking links or attachments in suspicious emails or opening documents.
Unusually Assertive Subject Lines and Body Copy
These can be threatening or enticing in tone. If a phishing email is sent to you, it will likely have one of the following characteristics:
- A sense of urgency. Phishing emails often claim that there is an emergency or another reason why immediate action is needed, such as “your account has been suspended” or “you are about to be charged for an unauthorized transaction.” These messages can be very convincing and may cause you to panic and act quickly without thinking things through.
- Something personal from a business you do business with. If you have done business with this company, they should already have your contact information for regular communication (e-mail addresses and phone numbers). If an email from them arrives asking for personal information like credit card numbers or Social Security numbers, it may be fraudulent. You should always check the sender’s address carefully before replying—if it looks suspicious whatsoever, report the spam!
- An invoice asks for money via wire transfer or PayPal account transfer (money laundering). This scam involves creating fake invoices that appear genuine but ask customers to send funds directly into their bank accounts via wire transfer or PayPal account transfers instead of using conventional methods such as checks and credit cards.
Highly Personalized Attacks
Phishing emails are getting more sophisticated and targeted. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see phishing emails that can seem personal, with details about your organization or something you’ve done within the past year. These are known as spear-phishing emails and are very difficult to spot because they look legitimate.
In addition, phishing attacks are becoming more targeted and personal. Attackers are not just sending out mass emails impersonating brands; they’re targeting specific employees of companies. They’ll use your organization’s name in the subject line of their email and even address the employee by name in the body text. These messages often seem to be from colleagues or friends at companies you do business with who ask for privileged information such as bank account information or passwords.
Always Hover Over to Check the Legitimacy of Links
Your employees must understand how to recognize potential phishing attacks. This can be done by explaining the various ways in which malicious actors can disguise links within emails. IT Consulting Vermont also provides extensive phishing awareness training for employees. Phishing emails may include:
- Links hidden in attachments (such as .zip files)
- Links hidden in the text of the email, including subject lines and body content
- Links hidden in signature blocks at the end of messages
- Links like “clicking here” or “visit this site” that are visible but don’t go anywhere when clicked
Hackers use authentic brand images and logos.
Hackers can use brand images and logos to trick you into trusting their emails. They may take an image from your website, social media accounts, or other sources—even a picture of yourself or someone else you know. To avoid this, you must be wary of any email that claims to be from a company but is not sent from their official email address.
If you think you or your organization is at risk of phishing attacks, please contact IT Outsourcing Vermont immediately.