Cybersecurity is the most important part of every organization. Cyberattacks are only growing in number and becoming technologically advanced. In response, organizations take stringent security measures; having the best IT team in place, establishing Cyber Threat Intelligence, following the latest cybersecurity trends, etc.
However, despite having a solid security network, organizations do fall victim to massive cyberattacks. Attackers use a technique called social engineering and trick the employees into giving out vital business information. One such common and disrupting social engineering attack is called Phishing.
What is a Phishing Attack?
Essentially, Phishing Attack takes advantage of human psychology, curiosity, and vulnerability. The attacker sends the user an e-mail, SMS, pop-up, etc. that carry malicious links or malware. As soon as the user clicks on it, the system gets infected and exposes the crucial company data, credentials, and valuable information.
Also, attackers don’t restrict themselves to any one type of Phishing Attack. There are different ways of launching a Phishing Attack. Let’s tell you about it.
What are the types of Phishing attacks?
This perhaps is the most common form of Phishing Attacks. E-mails are exchanged in volumes. In this digital age, if there is anything that needs to be communicated, from a business proposal to a new product in the market, e-mail is the preferred choice of communication. The attackers take advantage of the popularity of e-mails. They will, very smartly, draft an e-mail and include hyperlinks that are malicious. Think of this, you receive an e-mail entailing a brand-new feature about a certain business application you use. The e-mail looks normal with the brand logo, brand tag line, etc. You wouldn’t think twice before clicking on the hyperlink to fill in your basic details to avail the new feature. There! The minute you click on the link, malware gets delivered straight into your system.
As a result, credentials may get stolen, the customer database may get exposed or modified, or attackers may gain absolute control over your organization’s security network.
Voice Phishing or Vishing:
You receive a call from Mr. X, personnel from the IT department of your organization. He requests you to share the credentials of your device and other critical business applications for audit purposes. You give away the credentials to Mr. X. and why wouldn’t you? The voice sounded familiar, you know Mr. X in the IT department, and you are aware of the audit protocols of your organization. Well, the next thing you know, your account was breached! This is essentially how voice phishing or vishing happens. The attacker pretends to be someone from your bank, IT department, healthcare provider, etc., and lurks you into giving out vital information.
You are most likely to successfully identify a phishing email when you receive it from a suspicious or unknown source. But you may never be suspicious of an email that you receive from a legit or known URL. For instance, you may receive a spoofed email from your own organization’s domain. Attackers use a technique called “domain spoofing’’ for their phishing attack. In simple sense, someone can forge your signature on a cheque and steal funds from your account, similarly, a cyber-attacker will forge your organization’s domain and make it look as real as possible. Most often, it is the phishing e-mails from a spoofed domain are the ones that go unnoticed.
There is a difference between Phishing attacks and Spear Phishing attacks. Typically, unlike the Phishing Attack wherein malicious e-mails, SMS, pop-ups are sent to the masses, Spear Phishing Attack is very much targeted.
The attacker knows disrupting which department can cause huge losses to the organization. For instance, instead of sending a Phishing email to all the employees of the organization, an email is designed to lurk the Sales department, specifically, into giving out details about the critical customer database. According to Kevin Mitnick, a computer security consultant, most of the computer compromises that we hear about using a technique called spear phishing, which allows an attacker access to a key person’s workstation. It’s extremely difficult to defend against it.
Whaling attack could prove to be the most expensive cyber attack. Here the target group is high profile; the C-level executives, key employees, etc. who possess valuable business information, trade secrets, patents, etc. A decorated toy company, Mattel, almost lost as a result of a whaling attack after a top finance executive received an email requesting a money transfer from a fraudster impersonating the new CEO.
The above-mentioned are just a few common ones among the plenty of Phishing Attacks. It is evident how a Phishing Attack can create havoc with an organization, forcing us to address a critical question.
How to Prevent Phishing Attacks?
The following are the best practices to prevent Phishing Attack
#1 Educate and reward the employees
The success or failure of a Phishing attack invariably depends on the employee. So, educating employees is very important. Make them aware of the different kinds of phishing attacks. They will stay prepared and vigilant once they understand how phishing attacks take place and understand how disrupting it can be for the entire organization. Also, it is a great idea to reward employees who vigilantly identify and save the organization from a Phishing Attack. This helps them and the others in remaining motivated. Eventually, employees will by default, become a strong defense mechanism against Phishing attacks.
#2 Regular monitoring of activities
The data being sent from and received into the internal security network should be strictly monitored. Often, despite providing training and awareness sessions, employees may not be able to fully prevent a Phishing Attack. For instance, an employee may avoid clicking on an evidently suspicious link or pop up. However, given how cyber-attacks are becoming sophisticated, it is possible that the employee may fall victim to an ostensibly spoofed email or SMS. 97% of people around the world are unable to identify a sophisticated phishing email. This where IT professionals and cybersecurity experts come into the picture. Don’t just educate the employees and leave it there. Monitor all the activities and keep an eye on data being transmitted. You may catch hold of a sophisticated Phishing Attack that an employee may have missed out on.
#3 Avoid open or public networks
An unsecured network that lets any data, information, email pass by becomes an easy pathway for a Phishing Attack. Open or public networks don’t really filter out malicious data or links that may expose vital business information. So, it is best to avoid connecting over an open network. Employees should be encouraged to connect over a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN encrypts the data and transmits it through secret, secure tunnels and reduces the chances of malicious links and data reaching the user’s inbox.
#4 Invest in an IAM solution
Identity and Access Management solutions are highly effective in combating Phishing Attacks. It sure is important to monitor user activities and educate the employees but the task is equally daunting. Investing in a robust IAM solution certainly helps in detecting threats, scales up stringency in authentication, and restricts unauthorized access.