How Do I Recognize, Avoid & Recover From Phishing Incidents?
Phishing attacks can be devastating. They are costly and often compromise sensitive data. They can damage your organization's reputation and bring your business to a halt.
The 2023 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report identifies human error as the cause of 75 percent of cyber incidents. Social engineering tactics, including phishing, are the primary means of attack.
In this article, I’ll explain what phishing is, the signs you can use to recognize it, and the steps you can take to prevent and recover from phishing attacks.
As a managed IT support services provider, Kelser knows and uses the tools that help prevent cybersecurity incidents. But I’m not writing this article as a marketing ploy.
Instead, I’m writing it to provide you with the information you need to protect your business, your customers, and the information and data you all want to keep secure. For us, it’s more important that you be informed than that you work with us.
After reading this article, you will know what to look for and how to respond, which means you’ll be in a better position to understand how to keep your organization safe from phishing attacks.
What Is Phishing? How Does It Work?
Phishing is one of the most common social engineering fraud techniques. Phishing attacks often occur through email or websites but can also happen via phone, text, or social media.
In these types of attacks, cybercriminals pose as trustworthy sources to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing sensitive information such as passwords and usernames, credit card details, addresses, social security numbers, bank account numbers, or other data they can use to identify a person or gain access to otherwise secured data.
How To Recognize Phishing Attempts
In the past, spelling or grammatical errors were often a red flag for a phishing attempt. But as scammers have grown more sophisticated, their tactics have also matured.
Here are some telltale signs that can help you spot a phishing attempt:
1. Hurry Up And Click!
Any message that asks you to click on a link should immediately be under suspicion. If the message is putting pressure on you to act immediately, take an extra minute or two to make sure it is legitimate.
Phishing attempts usually contain a sense of urgency. They may say that your account has been compromised or that they need to confirm sensitive information immediately to protect your account. Stop and verify the sender and information before you react.
2. Recognize Me?
Hover over the address of the sender. If it seems fishy, copy the address and open it in your web browser as one way to verify authenticity. Consider contacting the sender directly via a phone number if you have one, just to be on the safe side.
3. Got The Time?
What time was the email sent? If it was outside of normal working hours, that should raise a red flag.
How To Avoid Phishing Attacks
The best way to avoid phishing attacks is to stay vigilant and avoid clicking on links in suspicious messages. Here are some other tips that will help keep your organization safe:
1. Install Updates
The first step in avoiding phishing scams is to make sure you keep devices, systems, filters, and software up to date. While this won’t protect you from everything, it’s a good place to start.
2. Trust (But Verify)
If you get a message that seems legitimate, but you aren’t expecting it or suspect it may be a phishing ploy, consider calling the sender via telephone or stopping by the office of a colleague if appropriate to confirm that it is authentic. Don’t just click on the link.
Trust your gut and check out suspicious messages through another source that you know to be reliable.
Whenever you have the impulse to react spontaneously, pause to think it through first. Retrain your brain.
3. Use Cybersecurity Tools
Cybersecurity tools like anti-phishing software, email filtering systems, and endpoint protection solutions like multi-factor authentication play a crucial role.
Data backups another way to prepare for the eventuality that you may fall victim to phishing or another social engineering attack. But remember, it’s not enough to simply have a backup. Backups should happen regularly and someone in your organization should be tasked with knowing where the backups are and how to access them.
Related article: What Is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)? Do I Need It?
But one of the most important (and underused) cybersecurity is employee security awareness training. These training modules can be used to educate users on a multitude of current and emerging cyberthreats and tactics, including phishing and safe online practices.
Related article: 3 Topics All Cybersecurity Awareness Training Must Include
All of these tools together make it more difficult for hackers access your information.
What Should I Do If I Think I’ve Fallen For A Phishing Scam?
There are three things you should do if you suspect you've been a victim of a phishing attack:
1. Change your passwords
2. Report the incident to your IT team
3. Monitor devices, systems, and accounts for suspicious activity
What’s The Bottom Line?
If you receive a message that puts pressure on you to act quickly, pause for a moment and check it out before clicking on a link or submitting information. Trust your gut. If it sounds suspicious, it probably is.
After reading this article, you know what phishing is and how it works.
You also know signs to look for to identify a phishing attack (pressure tactics, unknown sender or address, and the time the message was sent. And, you’ve learned several steps you can take to avoid falling victim to a phishing attempt: install updates, trust (but verify), and use cybersecurity tools.
With phishing attacks on the rise and evolving daily, your cybersecurity defense strategy needs to keep pace. Putting safeguards in place and knowing the signs to look for can help you be proactive and minimize your risk of becoming a victim.
Educating your workforce is the next step. You may have internal staff that can provide training, or you may need to rely on external resources. There are many options, but providing this training is one of the most effective ways to combat the ever-changing cyber threat landscape.
Read this article to learn more about cybersecurity awareness training so you can decide whether your organization would benefit.