Are we a step ahead or in the dust when it comes to phishing scam prevention? That is a great question to ask. To gauge our current security measures and where we hope to be in the future, we must know a definite, quantifiable response to this question. But truth be told, do know with utmost certainty? What we know is that we must prepare in case of a phishing attack. Anticipating an attack and being prepared for one may be a good sign that we may be at-par with it.
We would know if we are encountering a scammer or not.
Phishing scams are one of the most common types of cybercriminal attacks. A scammer would get access to your passwords, credit cards, or other sensitive information. Their targets are mostly on businesses. However, the scammer may alert you to unauthorized or suspicious activity on your account.
To help businesses, including other people’s accounts, from falling victim to phishing scams, we must look at these five things in response to avoid phishing attacks:
- Educate Your Employees
Companies should educate their employees on identifying phishing scams. Statistically, they found out that human error caused most data breaches. Equipping your team and helping them become more knowledgeable about this type of attack and what to do to counteract it, is essential knowledge for your company.
Our staff and employees are sometimes perceived as entry points that a cybercriminal would take advantage of. A compromised network, an infected desktop, or a compromised mobile device with access to the network may become that small opening that cybercriminals will keep covertly attacking until they find access to secure servers.
Sometimes it may not even lead that far. The phishing scam may just lead to loss of personal finances of an employee, or the person would experience identity theft. In the latter situation, hackers who have successfully stolen a person’s identity, credentials, and critical information may use that person’s identity to send more strategic phishing emails covertly until they have found a gateway into the company’s secure servers.
Getting our staff and employees adequately trained and educated with all cyberattacks, not just phishing scams, must be given priority.
- Deploy a Spam Filter
Phishing scams gain entry mainly through the messages in our email. Having a strict spam filter will filter out all email that has not been verified, has not been authenticated, has a domain name that looks suspicious, has been sent from an IP address or domain that has been included in the blacklist, such as SpamCop’s list. Conventional email providers, such as Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook, have stringent filters. These providers have set extremely high protection protocols as a default. Their filters would treat any mail as a suspicious one in case the source IP Address, Domain, or Servers are questionable, or they could not get confirmation that the email indeed came from a verifiable source. Your company would probably have a filter in place for such an occurrence or the prevention of an attack.
Similarly, email security policies must be established clearly. These policies set the guidelines that every message, file attachment, address, domain name, and even what type of verification tool would be accepted and must be met for the message to reach its intended recipient.
Lastly, a web filter is needed to block pages that may contain suspicious content. The filter is a layer of protection when a suspicious link is clicked and may lead the user to open a page that may have harmful content.
- Keep all Systems Current with the Latest Patches and Updates
Keeping all systems updated It is sound advice for anyone or any company. Keeping your systems updated, especially with the latest patches and security prevents the exploitation of vulnerabilities that might have existed in your system. Hackers and those with malicious intent are relying upon that people would tend to be lax in maintaining their security measures.
Another reason for keeping your systems updated is to keep your email policies and security protocols updated. The choice to not update and install the latest patches would create a vulnerability that you would not be aware of when the exact time the attack has commenced. You also would not be aware that a stranger has begun to access critical information. Beyond phishing tactics and social engineering methods, hackers use exploited kits to sniff out any device that has apps and OS that has not been updated.
If you use any external list of known suspicious IP addresses and domain names, then that list would also need to be updated.
- Install an Antivirus Solution, and Monitor the Antivirus Status
Most Antivirus solution software keeps a record of all known viruses and attacks in their directories. They also have a file of it on their servers. What this means is they can fight off any known cyberattack. Some threat solutions such as Kaspersky Total Security or Trend Micro Maximum Security has performed well even in simulations where a zero-day threat instigated an attack. This type of cyberattack has no record yet, and the security software may or may not have the equipment to handle the situation.
When a suspicious email message gets mistakenly clicked and opened, if you have reliable security software, your threat protection will kick in motion and recognize the threat. It would quarantine or delete the file or files depending on the settings you have made beforehand. Most phishing emails would have an attachment, such as a document file or a text file. These types of documents have been known to be carriers of malware that would either have an immediate effect or would secretly embed itself to your computer and be programmed to wreak havoc later.
- Encrypt all Sensitive Company Information
Encryption is a great way to protect your critical information. With this method, you will need a key to decode the data. Without the key, it would be difficult to get hold of the data.
If in the situation where the hacker was able to execute his phishing plan successfully, encryption will be the last attempt for the protection of your data and information. Some IT professionals consider stolen encrypted data as useless data (if the key has not been compromised.
As one of the final layers of protection, encryption is proof that you cannot stop all attacks. Cyberattacks happen multiple times in an hour and numerous times in a day. There will come a time that one attack may go through all the defenses that have been set up. In situations like that, encryption of critical and sensitive information is also proof of a well-established pre-emptive counterattack against phishing attacks and other cyberattacks.
Being prepared for an attack, specifically a phishing one, is great to hear. But what if there are things that happen behind closed doors that we may not be privy to. These may include moments of significant innovations on the side of hackers. They may have developed a new technology to take phishing scams to a whole new level. They may have developed ways that would be hard to detect and made emails that would be indistinguishable to the real one. These are just theories, but should this scenario occur in the real world, being aware of these different ways would help you protect yourself. Even if no phishing attack occurs, the preparation you have made has made sure that you are a step ahead of this type of scam.