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What is Phishing? How it Works and How to Prevent Attacks

Gray Oshin
04 June, 2022

How does phishing work

Did you know that phishing attacks account for more than 80% of reported security incidents? Phishing is a severe challenge in the digital landscape and it gets worse every year. Your organization needs a robust cybersecurity strategy to ward off phishing attacks to thrive competitively in the present volatile digital space. 

It is better to take preventive measures than to become a victim of a security breach by phishing. That said, this article covers the basic things you need to know about pushing and how to reinforce your cybersecurity architecture to prevent phishing attacks.

What is Phishing?

Phishing is a form of social engineering where a malicious actor sends a message designed to lure a person into giving out sensitive details or clicking links that could lead to the download of malware on the victim’s infrastructure. Primarily, the goal of phishing is to trick the target into performing actions that predispose the victim to cyberattacks.

Important information they lure people to divulge includes personally identifiable information, banking data, bank card details, passwords, and more. Malicious actors use these sensitive data to wreak havoc in the form of identity theft and financial crimes.

How Does Phishing Work?

Cybercriminals pose as legitimate organizations to deceive victims. Targets are contacted by email, telephone, text message, or lured to perform an action on malicious websites. 

Victims are tricked into providing confidential details. In some cases, the target is coaxed to click an ‘infected link’ that leads to the downloading of malware onto the victim’s system.

Perpetrators of phishing are always strategic. In targeted attacks, they identify and research their targets. This helps them to create emails and text messages that look trustworthy but actually loaded with malicious links and attachments.

What are the Features of Phishing Messages?

More often than not, people fall victim to phishing attacks because they do not know what phishing messages look like. A good understanding of the features of phishing emails or text messages will enable you to educate your employees better. 

Here are the key characteristics to look out for:

  • Bogus Promises

Phishing messages come with lucrative offers that are too good to be true. Such emails tell you that you have won an iPhone or a lot of money. Once you see a message promising you things you did not work for, do not click any link or divulge private details.

  • Urgency

Malicious cyber actors lure victims into performing certain actions by telling them that they have limited time to claim a prize, update their details, or win money. If a message tells you to click a link or divulge your details with a sense of urgency, have a rethink. 

  • Spoofed or Strange-Looking Hyperlinks 

Phishing emails contain spoofed links or hyperlinks that lead to suspicious landing pages. For instance, they include misspelled URLs of popular sites: using www.bankofarmerica.com to trick targets. Here, the ‘m’ in America is replaced by an ‘r’ and an ‘n.’

  • Unfamiliar Sender

In general, phishing emails are always weird when closely inspected. They always come from unusual sources or from people you do not have business with.

  • Attachments

Criminals send emails with attachments that contain payloads like ransomware and other types of malware. If an email from someone you do not know or an email that looks strange comes with an attachment, do not download it.

How to Prevent Phishing Attacks

Having covered what phishing is, how it works and the features of phishing messages, we will take a quick look at how you can protect yourself and your organization from phishing attacks.

1. Use Spam Filters

Advanced spam filters are capable of spotting suspicious emails. They use some common phrases that appear spammy to filter emails. This helps to cut down the number of malicious-looking messages that enter the inbox. Spam filters also evaluate the sources of messages and other security parameters.

2. Leverage Browser Settings

Browsers keep track of malicious websites. With their settings, you can make them block websites that are not legitimate - helping you to stay away from compromised platforms.

3. Look Before You Leap

Do not enter your sensitive information online without first verifying the legitimacy of the platform. Avoid clicking links and attachments without ascertaining how trustworthy the sources are.

4. Institute Two-Factor Authentication

Implement two-factor authentication in your company. Criminals find it difficult to log into accounts with stolen details when 2FA is in place.

5. Employee Awareness Training

Cybercriminals are ever-evolving. So, you have to make sure your workers are always provided with relevant and up-to-date information on phishing attacks. Humans remain the weakest link and any organization that wants to avoid cyber-attacks must take employee awareness training seriously.

6. Ethical Phishing

Ethical phishing involves contracting a cybersecurity company to simulate a phishing attack targeting your employees. The goal here is to ascertain how prepared your organization is when it comes to resisting phishing attacks. This will help you to spot where the problem lies and to implement a remediation strategy.

Conclusion: Why is Ethical Phishing Important?

Phishing is a major cause of security breaches. And this trend is expected to continue. As an organization that wants to be a thousand miles ahead of cyber malicious actors, you need to institute necessary measures to prevent phishing attacks.

One of the keys to doing this is to ensure that your employees are properly educated and prepared to spot and resist attacks. No matter the type of software solutions you implement, your security framework could be very weak. With ethical phishing, you will spot and fix weaknesses before a real hacker exploits them.

Here at WebSec, we have been in the business of helping organizations strengthen their security via ethical phishing and security awarenes trainings. We have a team of dedicated experts to analyze your business and deploy ethical attacks to help you know how weak or strong your systems are and how security aware your employees are. Get in touch with us today!

Authored By
Gray Oshin

A Team Member at Websec

Deel met de wereld!


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Afspraak Inplannen
Authored By
Gray Oshin

A Team Member at Websec