Phishing attacks use deceptive emails to trick users. They have become one of the foremost attack vectors to deliver malicious content into computer systems.
There are two ways to carry out a phishing attack. The first uses website spoofing, in which the perpetrators create an almost perfect double of a legitimate website and then ask the victim to log in with their credentials there. The attacker then gets hold of these credentials. The second one uses a malicious attachment and tricks the victim into downloading it.
Overall, the objective of phishing attacks can vary. It may be launched to-
- gain access to the sensitive information of the victim
- block the services from the legitimate user for ransom or other reasons
- make undetectable changes to the crucial information held by the organization
Moreover, threat actors use phishing emails during crisis situations to create panic among users and lead them to spoofed websites. For example, the rise of phishing incidents during the recent coronavirus pandemic.
Phishing affects organizations in a major way. Additionally, it affects individuals and their cyber security negatively. For organizations, phishing attacks can also lead to a leak of organizational secrets. Consequently, this can cause a major loss to the reputation of the brand. An article published by CSO Online in March 2020 revealed that 94% of malware is delivered via mail.
Phishing Attacks: More Complex Than Ever
With each passing day, threat actors have evolved their phishing methods and taken their game up a notch. Presently, they are coming up with more sophisticated phishing email templates every day. As a result, these phishing emails are now almost impossible to differentiate from legitimate emails. Phishing can take various forms like-
- Spear Phishing – In spear phishing, the emails are targeted at a specific group of victims and the phishing email template is designed according to the targeted group. It is made to look like it’s coming from a trusted source.
A phishing email may use the domain of an organization and a person sitting at a position of authority in that organization as the sender. For example, the sender ID in a phishing email meant to trap employees of an organization named ‘company’ may look like [email protected][.]com.
- Clone Phishing – Attackers may get hold of previously sent legitimate emails and design similar-looking emails. These phishing emails usually contain a malicious attachment or link to trap the victim after they download the attachment or click on the link.
- Whaling – Whaling is a type of phishing attack that targets high-profile executives of an organization. Attackers can fetch high returns through such attacks.
All things considered, defense against phishing includes everything from awareness and training to automated cyber security solutions. With the rise in the trend of emails being used as a medium to deliver malicious content, defense against phishing has become all the more important.
Measures to Prevent Phishing
- Generate Awareness – Awareness training tools like ThreatCop can help in generating cyber security awareness among employees. It uses cyber attack simulation to launch dummy attacks on employees of an organization. Moreover, after an attack campaign, it also imparts awareness and training to educate employees about how they should react in such situations.
- Be wary of offers too good to be true – Employees should be on the lookout for emails that contain offers that are too good to be true. It is a common practice among cyber attackers to use such lucrative offers to prompt the victim to click on the link in the email.
- Encrypting Email Content – Attackers can get hold of legitimate email content in the inbox. They can then design their phishing attack templates accordingly. To avoid this, encryption can be a very effective method.
- Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) – MFA is important to minimize chances of data theft if a threat actor gets hold of account credentials. Therefore, it provides an extra layer of protection in case someone loses their credentials in a phishing attack. In a way, it delays losses arising from human error.
- Keep Up With The Trend – Keeping up with the ongoing cyber trend is equally important. If your employees are aware of the cyber attack trends of the time, it is easier for them to tell a legitimate email apart from a phishing email. Consequently, they will not click on any suspicious links or attachments the phishing email contains.
- Use Phishing Incident Response Tools – Using phishing incident response tools like Threat Alert Button can help in removing malicious emails from the inbox of the users. Moreover, it also empowers the employees to report suspicious emails immediately.
- Secure Your Organization’s Email Domain – It is advised that organizations secure their email domain using tools like KDMARC to minimize the chances of spear-phishing attacks on their employees. Furthermore, this can also help in the maintenance of brand reputation and the prevention of domain misuse.
Phishing attacks can affect individuals and organizations by compromising their information security. In addition, threat actors have become more advanced in their methodology and this should be reason enough to become more watchful. They pose a threat to our privacy, our finances, and almost every other well-functioning system in the world. To sum up, phishing attacks exploit human negligence. Therefore, every internet user, irrespective of the value of the information they possess, should be alert and proactive in securing their cyber space.
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