Spotting a phishing attack: What your employees should know

Spotting a phishing attack: What your employees should know

As any business owner or manager worth their salt knows, a business is only as good as its people. Sometimes, however, the very same people behind your company’s success can also drive it to ruin. Due to poor cybersecurity practices, or even a lack of general know-how about cyberthreats and how to deal with them, they can cost your organization not just financially, but also in terms of customer trust and reputation.

Phishing is one of the many threats that you and your employees should be aware of and know how to protect yourself against. And with phishing being the number one cause of data breaches worldwide, it’s imperative that you train your entire workforce on how to spot phishing attacks and what to do in the face of one.

Here’s what your employees should know about identifying and avoiding phishing attacks:

There are different phishing methods. The first thing that your employees should understand is that there are various ways of carrying out a phishing attack. There are smishing and vishing — phishing carried out over SMS or text messages and internet telephony systems, respectively — but email is by far the most common method.

Phishers send out fraudulent emails, posing as someone the unwitting recipients know or trust, or someone in authority. They do this to trick victims into divulging confidential information such as login credentials and credit card details, which they will then sell on the black market or use for other nefarious schemes.

Phishing emails are typically poorly crafted. In all likelihood, an email that’s riddled with grammatical errors and odd wording or phrasing is a phishing email. Legitimate companies often hire professionals to write, edit, and proofread any correspondence they send out to their clients and partners, so your staff should be wary of mistakes in emails supposedly coming from entities they trust.

In training your employees, underscore the importance of carefully reading emails or SMS messages and checking these for spelling and grammar errors. Beyond an email’s body, the sender’s email address and email signature, as well as any images or logos, should be double-checked. Such issues tend to be so subtle that they’re so easy to overlook — a special character in the domain name, a generic salutation, an extra space in the header or footer — but the consequences of missing them can be catastrophic.

They convey a sense of urgency. Fraudsters employ scare tactics to trick their victims into handing over confidential information, and your staff should watch out for emails that demand immediate action. For instance, phishers may send an email warning you that your bank account will be closed if you don’t update your personal information immediately. They may ask you to reply to the email with your details or to click on a link that will lead you to a spoofed or fraudulent website.

Train your staff to never respond to such emails or click on any link in them, bearing in mind that no legitimate organization would ever ask for confidential information through email.

They have suspicious links or attachments. If any of your employees receive an email with an unsolicited link or attachment, they should be careful. It’s likely that the link or attachment will lead them to a spoofed website designed to steal personal information. It may also be that the attachment contains malware, and clicking on it instantly downloads malware onto the recipient’s device.

Your staff should check any links by hovering their mouse cursor over them to see if the target URL matches the display text. As for attachments, scan them using antivirus software. But even if they think the links or attachments check out, it would probably be best to err on the side of caution and not click on them. Your employees could also contact the company that supposedly sent the email to verify if they did send it.

Educating your staff is key to protecting your business from phishing attacks, but it’s only the first step. It’s best to have a multilayered approach that can boost your company’s resilience to phishing and other cyberthreats. Active RMP can help you do all this by promoting cybersecurity best practices to your employees, implementing robust antivirus and anti-malware solutions, and regularly monitoring and evaluating your cybersecurity posture. Call us today to learn more.

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