One of the absolute most common digital attack methods used by hackers of all kinds are phishing attempts. In 2021, they represented at least 43% of all data breach attempts against organizations according to Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report. The FBI’s own stats back this up too. They show that phishing is the single most common type of cybercrime attack currently being used.
The reasons why are simple enough: Phishing is fairly easy to attempt most of the time; phishing is extremely cheap to attempt, and phishing attempts tend to be very profitable for hackers.
But what does phishing mean? More importantly, how can you stop these attacks when they happen against your own business? That’s what we’re going to cover now.
How Phishing Works: An Overview
Phishing can take on many forms, but in its most basic elements, this type of attack involves the following essentials: Cyber criminals send the owner or employee of a business (or anyone at all depending on the phishing target) an email, social media or text message that pretends to be from a trusted source but really isn’t.
The fake message is sent in order to get that person to do something that helps the hackers steal information or access sensitive systems. Most phishing attacks arrive through email messages, but they can also arrive as text messages or social media IMs.
In some versions, hackers try to get you to click a link that takes you to a false version of a trusted website so that you unwittingly hand over sensitive information. In other cases, they try to get you to download an attachment that infects your computer and business network. In other cases, a phishing email directly asks for private information by misleading you about its trustworthiness or the source of the request.
Phishing attacks are usually sent in order to plant malware into your systems or to extract login and financial access credentials from you. They can however also sometimes directly ask for a transfer of funds by pretending to be people who would legitimately ask for a payment.
With the above description, it’s easy to see why phishing is so often used and dangerous to businesses of all sizes and types. Now, here are four key methods for mitigating this danger.
Be Aware of Attack Vectors
As a very basic first step to securing your business, know what the typical sources of phishing attacks are. Most of these attempts will come at you through email but they can also arrive via any other type of messaging platform used by your company. Once you understand this, training yourself and your staff to be especially careful with how they handle any requests for downloads, link clicking, or information from any source that isn’t 100% verified will be much easier.
Check and Double Check Message Sources
Even if you know what angle phishing hooks might come from in an attempt to bait you, the hackers behind these attempts are quite clever at disguising their phony messages as legitimate requests.
This is why any email or message from someone claiming to be your bank, or your insurance provider, or IT security team or another company staffer should be verified with a separate message or call to the known contact number, profile or email of that person. This applies especially to messages that request some specific action or information.
Don’t Click Links or Download Attachments
Until you’ve fully verified the source of a specific email message or other types of digital communication, simply avoid doing what it requests. You might feel pressured to do as the message asks, and attackers know this. It’s why they often use an urgent appeal to authority in order to panic recipients into clicking specific links, downloading something or handing information over. Nonetheless, simply hold off until you’ve verified. The cost of doing that will be much lower than the cost of falling victim to an actual attack.
Keep your Network and Data Secured
No matter how hard you and your staff try to protect yourselves against phishing attempts, there’s still a good chance that an attack will succeed. This cybercrime method is so popular specifically because it’s frequently successful. As extra security, protect your back-end too by securing your sensitive data against theft, ransomware, and unauthorized access.
Frequently change all of your passwords, back up and encrypt your most sensitive information and regularly monitor your financial details and IT network for signs of suspicious activity. Even these steps offer no guarantees, but they are helpful at stopping active breaches in their tracks.
Seek Expert Help
As a final and crucial step, it’s a good idea to understand that fully preventing breach attempts against your business can quickly turn into a full-time job. Your own staff might not have the time or training for the work involved and an ideal solution might simply be to contact professional outside help instead. Managed IT services experts such as Midnight Blue can offer 24-hour IT security for your company so that you and your employees can focus on the business itself.
Contact the MidnightBlue Team today for your customized solution.