Many data breaches begin with an employee falling for a phishing attack, a deceptive email that tricks readers into clicking a link that leads to malware or some other security threat. A single mistake by an employee might ultimately lead to millions of personal records getting stolen as a result of a hack. Since the consequences are severe, companies need to educate their employees about common online scams and how to avoid them.
Recognizing common phishing tactics will help employees identify warning signs when they check their email. Phishing attackers seek to provide readers with a false sense of security, luring them into giving up passwords, financial data, or other sensitive information. The fraudulent email often asks readers to provide personal information or “verify” such information.
To convince targets that the email is real, phishing attackers rely on several tactics. They might use a legitimate company's name, incorporating the real firm's color scheme and branding into the phony email to make it look real. (If a suspicious email claims to be from the IRS, you can report it to the real agency.) In the “From” field, they might use a name of an actual co-worker. Or they might set up a bogus website imitating a legitimate one; the fake site might have a URL similar to the real one. To push the recipient into responding, the phishing attackers might claim the need to reply is urgent, distracting the victim from exercising good judgement.
There are many ways employees can defend themselves against phishing attacks. Businesses should institute training sessions to explain the dangers of phishing and how to use techniques to avoid falling for a misleading email.
Employees can also use the phone to verify any requests. One common scam is for attackers to send an email purportedly from a CEO who is traveling overseas and needs money wired to him or her immediately. By making a simple call to the real CEO, the employee can check the legitimacy of the email and avoid a potential disaster.
Another easy technique to avoid an attack is for employees to type the URL of the website they intend to visit rather than click on the link from an email. Typing the URL can ensure users visit the right address rather than a fraudulent site. IT teams can also install ad blockers and anti-malware programs to strengthen security in case employees do click on deceptive links.
Phishing isn't the only threat businesses face. They also have to watch out for hackers probing their systems for vulnerabilities. Solutions such as network security monitoring and vulnerability management can help organizations defend themselves against today's advanced cyber threats at an affordable cost.
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