Cyber-attacks come in a variety of formats and with the advancement of technology it continues to improve. Phishing is a common type of cyber-attack used by cyber criminals, and according to Proofpoint’s threat report, 75% of organizations experienced a Phishing attack in 2020 (Proofpoint 2021 state of the Phish report).
Cyber criminals found a higher success rate in achieving their goals thorough email phishing rather than any other approach. This is due to the lack of awareness and knowledge on how to identify legitimate emails from fake ones. There are many ways that could help organizations in decreasing the numbers of successful phishing attacks and educating their employees on this topic is one of them. Being able to spot a phishing email is very helpful to achieve that goal.
So, what are phishing emails and how do you spot them?
What is Phishing?
First, we must define phishing, phishing is a malicious method used by cyber criminals to collect confidential data from users. The attackers pose as a trustworthy individual or organization in order to get the victims to trust them and disclose their personal information. Phishing attacks may be used for financial extortion, identity theft, and gaining unauthorized access to the victim’s account. Email phishing is one form of phishing used by cyber criminals.
Unfortunately, 96% of cyber-attacks are delivered through email (Verizon 2020 Data Breach Investigations report). One way cyber criminals can attack: A cybercriminal sends a phishing email to a victim, when the unsuspecting individual opens the email and clicks any link or downloads any attachment within the email, malicious malwares or key loggers are downloaded onto the users device and begin stealing the users information and could possibly spread to other users on the network! Cyber criminals use eye catching words such as Urgent! Attention! Important! this way they insure they grasp their victim’s attention and entice them into clicking on malicious links or opening malicious files.
Especially, with the recent global pandemic they know what society is looking out for, which is constant updates.
Therefore, the number of people who got hacked skyrocketed in this period. Many suffered from this and exposed their personal, financial, and medical data, in particular organizations. Last year, the number of business email compromise (BEC) attempts witnessed a significant 15% increase (Abnormal Security 2020 Quarterly Q3 BEC report). This proves the importance of educating your employees on how to be alert and distinguish phishing emails from authentic ones.
But how could you spot a malicious email from the hundreds you receive? Listed below are the top 5 ways to do so and which could help you avert future troubles.
5 Ways to Identify a Phishing Email:
1- ALWAYS check the sender domain before interacting with the email. This is one of the easiest giveaways to the hacker’s scheme. If the email is truly from your bank, then you would receive it from a private domain not a public one such as @gmail.com or @hotmail.com.
2- Spelling mistakes and grammatical error are evident in phishing emails. When an organization sends out an official email to its employees or customers they run it through a spell-checking tool to verify before sending. Which is why, when you see multiple errors in an email do not overlook it as simple mistakes, instead take it as a sign to not interact with it any further.
3- In phishing emails, malicious links and attachments are a staple. This way when you click on them you singlehandedly corrupted your cyber privacy. These attachments download malwares that can hack into your system and steal your personal data. So, do not be hasty on clicking anything until you determine the authenticity of it.
4- When you receive an email stating you won a prize or free subscription to something you never interacted with or visited, that can indicate the legitimacy of the sender. Also, when you start receiving newsletters for something you did not sign up for then it is a high chance of it being a phishing email.
5- Cyber criminals will most likely try to scare the victim into providing them the information they need by sending an important email that required immediate action for example it can be an email disguised as their bank or place of work, they do so by stating “Warning! Account will be closed if not…” and etc. This will urge the recipient in following the warnings afraid of any damage without thoroughly looking through the email checking for potential flaws.
Bonus: You could also implement a phishing simulation solution such as PhishGuard that trains your employees specifically about one of the most fundamental security threats, and to educate users on how to respond to the growing phishing security risks! PhishGuard also enables periodic assessment, measurement, and monitoring of your employees’ readiness to detect phishing scams.
Email phishing is one of the many ways to be taken advantage online, but after educating yourself around this topic, this could help in reducing the chances of being a future victim to this type of attack. Always be cautious when opening and interacting with any email you receive. This could spare you from future inconveniences.
Think, before you click!
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