October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month and it’s a good time to brush up on how you can protect your organization from cybercrime. One of the most common and dangerous threats in today’s digital world is phishing. Here’s what you need to know to defend yourself and your organization:
What is phishing?
Learning how to recognize phishing is the first step in defending against it. Phishing involves cybercriminals sending deceptive emails, often impersonating trusted sources, to trick recipients into revealing sensitive information or taking harmful actions. These emails typically contain malicious links or attachments that, when clicked, can lead to malware installation or compromise personal and financial data. Phishing tactics can include creating a false sense of urgency (such as an email saying that you owe payment right away), the impersonation of an authority figure (such as your boss), and other methods that manipulate individuals into unwittingly assisting cybercriminals. These scams can lead to financial loss, data breaches, and more.
What are the different types of phishing?
Here is a list of the types of phishing your organization and employees may be susceptible to.
Spam: Annoying junk mail that’s not necessarily malicious.
Phishing: Malicious emails designed to compromise your system or trick recipients.
Spear Phishing: Targeted attacks with personal or organizational information.
Whaling: Targeting high-level executives within an organization.
Vishing: Phishing via phone calls.
Smishing: Phishing through text messages.
How do you spot phishing scams?
With the many types of phishing, it’s important you know how to identify red flags.
Don’t trust display names. Phishers often manipulate these to make it seem like the message is from a trustworthy source, such as a colleague or family member. It’s crucial to verify the actual email address or phone number, as these may not align.
Scrutinize the salutation. If it seems vague, impersonal, or includes unusual elements like underscores in your name, exercise caution.
Check for typos and incorrect grammar. These can be glaring indicators of a phishing attempt.
Pay attention to the signature. A vague or impersonal signature can be a cause for concern, especially if it abruptly ends with a generic “thank you.”
Look before clicking. Always take a moment to hover over hyperlinks before clicking to unveil the true destination URL.
Beware of threats. Be cautious of messages containing threats or coercive language. This is a popular tactic for phishing attempts.
Unsolicited messages. If you weren’t expecting a message from a particular sender or organization, it’s best to ignore it and refrain from responding to unsolicited messages.
How do you protect yourself and your organization from phishing scams?
To shield both yourself and your organization from the perils of phishing attacks, it’s essential to adopt the following protective measures. Here are a few proven ways to lower your risk of being a victim of cybercrime:
- Educated your employees on common cyber threats and how to identify them.
- Embrace Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to add an extra layer of defense to your accounts.
- Craft strong and distinctive passwords or passphrases, ensuring they’re unique for each online account.
- Consider separate emails for critical accounts.
- Regularly back up your data, employing both encrypted local/offline and cloud-based backups to secure your information.
- Keep software up to date by installing the latest security patches and updates.
- For small businesses, getting additional help through a third-party IT support can be a proactive step in keeping your organization safe.
Phishing attacks are a pervasive threat, but with knowledge and vigilance, you can protect yourself and your organization. By recognizing the signs of phishing, implementing preventive measures, and staying informed, you can stay one step ahead of cybercriminals and safeguard your digital world. Remember, education and awareness are your best defenses against phishing.