How to Protect Your Business from Phishing Attacks
According to recent cybersecurity-related findings, phishing attacks make up more than 80% of reported security incidents. In fact, companies lose $17,700 every minute due to phishing attacks.
Also, phishing is the top social engineering attack, which accounts for more than 80 percent of reported incidents.
Phishing is an online scam, the final goal of which is to persuade users to install malware. It involves using malicious emails to infect a system and stealing usernames, passwords, financial details, and other sensitive data.
Unfortunately, phishing emails are becoming increasingly real-looking and striking businesses of all sizes more frequently than ever before. However, businesses can take certain steps to fortify their IT security and safeguard themselves against phishing.
How Phishing Works
Phishing is a cybercrime, where the criminal contacts an unsuspecting target, usually via email. The criminal establishes contact by posing as a well-known, reputed institution, organization or individual. This is done to trick the target into revealing their confidential information, including passwords, transactional details, unique IDs, personally identifiable information, to the hacker.
The hacker uses this information to access the target’s account, which often leads to considerable monetary loss. Phishing scams are also used to target businesses to get sensitive company information, patents, intellectual property, revenue figures, and so on.
Traditionally, phishing scams were executed through email. Over the years, however, phishing techniques have evolved and become widespread. Apart from emails, hackers now use text messages (smishing) and phone calls (vishing) to implement their phishing scams.
Protect Your Business from Phishing
While phishing attacks may not be going anywhere any time soon, the good news is that you can take certain measures to safeguard your business. Let’s see how.
- Identify the Signs
Phishing messages can look incredibly authentic, and it can be difficult for the untrained eye to tell the difference. Here are a few tips that should help you identify a malicious email.
- Spelling and grammar errors: Genuine emails from big organizations, like banks, are unlikely to contain spelling and grammar mistakes as they are written by professionals. So if you receive an email that’s supposedly from your bank, but contains poor spelling and grammar, verify with the sender before clicking on the links in it.
- Unreasonable urgency: Hackers usually send out emails with time-specific promotions or rewards. This is done to convince you to act quickly and miss the telltale signs of a fake email or verify the integrity of the links and attachments within the message.
- Peculiar attachments: Beware of emails received from people you don’t know. Don’t open any attachments in these emails. If the message contains a URL, make sure it has an SSL certificate, and starts with HTTPS.
- Direct threats: Hackers may also make threats to make you submit to their demands, i.e. to give them your personal information. They might also trick you into downloading ransomware, which will end up locking all your data. The hacker will then extort huge sums of money to unlock it.
- Impart Training at Regular Intervals
As a business owner, you may be aware about phishing and the damage it can cause. This, however, does not mean that your employees know about it too. It is, therefore, your responsibility to ensure that they know about it and follow the necessary security guidelines to keep phishing attacks at bay.
Training your employees in all aspects of IT security and network security can be helpful. If you’re not sure how to go about it, you can have a cybersecurity services provider do the job.
After imparting the training, conduct unexpected phishing simulations to identify your weak links. Enroll these employees for further training and reward those who successfully prevent the fake phishing attack.
- Use the Latest Software
Not updating your antivirus software can prove to be disastrous as it is a potential security loophole. Many a time, hackers exploit outdated software and plunder the target’s system. Preventing this doesn’t take much. Simply make sure that each software (not just antivirus) used in your systems is up-to-date.
While this may be a time-consuming and tedious task, it is a crucial one if you don’t want to expose your data to hackers. They rely on outdated software to successfully carry out their phishing attacks. You can get this burden off your shoulders by outsourcing it to providers of cybersecurity services.
- Deploy Anti-Spam and Anti-Phishing Solutions
Anti-phishing and anti-spam solutions are highly instrumental in mitigating the impact of a successful attack or even preventing a phishing attack entirely. Some sophisticated anti-phishing solutions can block suspicious emails containing malware from entering a company’s systems. Using such solutions can be extremely beneficial.
At Netlogix, for example, we help businesses avert phishing attacks by deploying an advanced AI-powered anti-phishing and anti-spam solution, Barracuda Sentinel. It offers the following robust protections:
- Real-time spear phishing and cyber fraud defense
- Domain fraud visibility and protection
- Protection against account takeover and insider risk
- Automated incident response
- Prevent future attacks with real-time forensic analysis
- Protect Your Network
Regardless of how much you train your employees, it is still likely that someone will end up clicking on a malicious link sometime. You don’t want to wait until that happens and then act. You want to take preventive measures in advance by running a centralized filtering solution that not only contains the aftermath, but also strengthens your network security.
This means installing a central firewall that governs and protects your network, and filters malicious websites. It will also help prevent your employees from accessing these sites, while sending out alerts if a security incident takes place.
- Enforce a Potent Password Policy
It is highly likely that once a hacker has the usernames and passwords used on your systems, he/she will try to use these credentials in as many places as possible. This can be a major problem if you or your employees are in the habit of using the same credentials on multiple platforms. The hacker will be able to gain access to all those accounts.
To prevent such a scenario, enforce a powerful password policy and formulate a system that prevents anyone from bypassing it. For example, make it mandatory for all employees to change their password to a unique one every 90 days. Employees who do not abide should not be allowed access to their accounts. Zero-compromise password policies can spare your business several potential security issues.
- Isolate Critical Components
As far as possible, try to isolate the critical components in your business infrastructure. Keep certain systems completely offline, aside from some of the critical connections to the central infrastructure.
Not all your employees need access to the database that contains your financial data or customer information. Similarly, if you have a centralized backup solution, not every employee will need access to the backup server. Provide access only to those who absolutely need it to get their job done.
So, even if a hacker infiltrates your network, he/she will gain very limited access to your systems and will not be able to cause your business much damage. Consult a cybersecurity services provider about this kind of an arrangement.
While cybersecurity tools and technologies have advanced, so have phishing techniques. No business, whether small or big, is actually safe from hackers. Since prevention is better than cure, it makes sense to put certain powerful measures in place as soon as possible to prevent such attacks or at least minimize the damage they can cause. Hopefully, the above few tips will help you secure your systems and network from phishing attacks, while warding off hackers and other malicious intents.
Marco is the owner and founder of NetLogix, Inc. a Managed IT Security Services firm that has been helping small businesses by providing an innovative and unique blend of managed IT services throughout New England with expertise in Insurance, Legal, Medical & Professional Services. Learn more about Marco and NetLogix here.