Phishing attacks are among the most prolific cyber attacks in the current era. Their ease of use, ability to simultaneously target mass amounts of victims, and the low technical knowledge required to carry them out have created the perfect storm for cybercriminals. Falling victim to phishing emails can lead to losing sensitive information like login credentials, account information, credit card numbers, and financial information. It may even allow additional security threats onto your device or network.
Finding ways to protect against phishing attacks should be a priority for everyone. The silver lining to the low-tech nature of these security threats is that some of the best ways to protect against phishing attacks are equally simple to implement. Unlike some software security risks where expert-level staff need to be involved, avoiding phishing scams requires the involvement of all personnel.
Hallmarks of a Phishing Attempt
Although SMS messaging and phone call-based phishing scams are climbing in popularity, most phishing attacks are perpetrated through suspicious emails. Cybercriminals typically leave several clues that make you believe the email is suspicious. They attempt to create a sense of urgency or dire consequences within the message. The greeting may be uncommon, the message may contain misspellings or other notable grammatical errors, the email may outright request personal information, or it will contain suspicious links. The first step in protecting against these attacks is successfully identifying them.
Bolster Your Defenses
Now that you can recognize a potentially suspicious email, how can you best avoid phishing scams altogether? We've compiled a list of cybersecurity measures that can harden your security posture and specific ways to protect against phishing attacks and aid in the fight against social engineering scams.
Monitor Cybersecurity Trends
We mentioned the importance of identifying the threat just before. Still, one of the best ways to do that is to follow trusted government and private sector sources of cybercrime information to see what versions of phishing attacks are most commonly occurring. Like many other fields, cybercrime has noticeable trends, and as those trends and attack vectors shift, providing that information to your personnel through training updates helps to keep them mindful and on the lookout for suspicious activity.
Don't Click Suspicious Links
Don't click the link. It sounds simple, but if this method of attack weren't effective, it wouldn't be so popular. This also goes for any activity directed in the email, such as if they request you to call a specific number immediately. If you have doubts as to the legitimacy of the email or believe the sender may have been the victim of business email compromise or spoofing, make sure that you contact the sender through another means not contained in the message. Preferably, you should do that by phone from a number obtained from your records.
Install Firewalls and Ad Blockers
Extra layers of protection can make all the difference when looking for ways to protect against phishing attacks. Firewalls help to prevent external attacks against your networks and systems, and ad blockers help to suppress pop up and other potential malicious advertisements that may appear on legitimate or suspicious sites. Ad blockers can be found as stand-alone programs or browser extensions, and firewalls can be applied at both the network and individual PC levels. Managing these extra layers of protection to work in concert can amplify their effectiveness.
Report Suspicious Emails
This is a multi-step component here. Report all potential phishing emails to the appropriate authorities. That could mean your company's IT department, email provider, or even the Anti Phishing Working Group or the Federal Trade Commission. Continuous reporting of these security threats helps to inform the fight against cybercriminals and may even help secure someone's account or financial information from identity theft.
Verify Security Certificates
As HTTPS becomes more commonplace, it's easy to forego looking at the complete URL of the website you're on before entering online account information. When verifying that your website is legitimate and not set up for pharming or another type of phishing attack, you should always start with HTTPS. That security protocol ensures that the encryption and authentication loop is intact, and your data should be safe from interception by cyber attackers. Don't enter any personal information on a site not using HTTPS.
Monitor for Updates and Patches
Whether we're talking about mobile devices, networks, or software applications that you use frequently, it's imperative that you keep track of and install available operating system updates and security patches. Doing so ensures you're actively adjusting your security posture to meet the shifting threats cybercriminals pose. These criminals are researching known vulnerabilities and ways to exploit them, so the way to stay ahead is to research that topic and apply the security patches that close those holes.
Use Secure Credentials
Another way to avoid phishing scams is to enforce password management best practices. Unique login credentials of sufficient length, multi-factor authentication, and principles of least access all serve to thwart attackers should they gain access to your network through a phishing attack. No one will be perfect every time, so planning for partitioned environments with secure login credentials will enhance your security posture considerably. Limiting the access of a cybercriminal is next in importance compared to preventing access entirely.
At Venture Lynk Risk Management, we can tailor a custom program to address your enterprise's cybersecurity or risk management challenges. We are experienced risk management specialists with a proven track record across many high-risk fields like healthcare, financial services, construction, etc. We provide services ranging from third-party vendor management, intellectual property risk management, operational risk management, and enterprise-wide third-party vendor risk management. See what our team can develop for you by contacting our staff for a consultation today.