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What Is Phishing In Cyber Security And How To Prevent it?

What is Phishing in Cybersecurity?

Firstly, are you concerned and asking yourself what to do if you click on a phishing email? Your next steps can be critical so call Computronix ASAP!

Before we break down all of the different types of phishing and how to prevent them it is important to note; As more of our lives become dependent on cyberspace, the need for cyber security becomes increasingly important. This is true for both the individual and the organization. 

Improvement in technology has not cut down cybercrime; losses have become even more devastating. Research by Cybercrime Ventures estimated that cybercrime cost the world about 6 Trillion dollars last year, and many authorities predict that global losses will reach 10.5 Trillion dollars by 2025. (https://cybersecurityventures.com/cybercrime-damages-6-trillion-by-2021/)

One of the oldest tricks by cyber criminals is Phishing. Despite the age of this method, it continues to be effective. Last year, investigations showed that 83% of organizations fell for phishing tactics. But what is Phishing, and how can you protect your organization from attack

What is Phishing?

Phishing is a cybercrime in which a cybercriminal tries to scam a person or organization by posing as a legitimate person or institution. The phisher has to extract sensitive data from his victim to be successful.

The criminal can contact his prospective victim through various means. He could use telephone calls, emails, or text messages. On rare occasions, they contact their victims on social media platforms.

During contact, the attacker persuades the victim to give away data like banking and credit card details, identity information, and passwords to accounts. He then uses the derived information to perpetrate identity theft and defraud the victim.

Both individuals and organizations are susceptible to Phishing, but organizations often find it harder to curb a Phishing attack. The reason is that a cybercriminal will engage in a phishing attack that targets people in the organization, and it only takes one person’s mistake to cause a breach that could damage the organization. The more people your business employs, the more vulnerable the business is to a Phishing attack. This is just another reason why network security is so important to organizations and businesses.

Why Phishing Can be Devastating To Your Business

Phishing will cost your company money. Several sources estimate that each successful phishing operation on an organization costs an average of about 4 million dollars. Sometimes, the cost can get higher.

Financial damage is not the only thing that your company can lose. Many organizations that become victims of Phishing also experienced blows to their reputation. It is usually hard to keep attacks of this nature in the dark, and prospective customers tend to view such businesses as unreliable and untrustworthy. Researchers have calculated that a company can lose up to 40% of its customers after successful phishing attacks. The loss of reputation and customers can be even more devastating than financial losses.

Phishing also disrupts the company’s workflow and triggers company values. A significant data breach in a company can lead to suspicion and internal investigations, all of which can reduce employees’ productivity. When a phishing attack is attempted, if completed can be disastrous for the business so having a disaster recovery plan is extremely beneficial in these situations.

The business will also lose partners, employees, and customers. Efficient employees who accidentally leak data to criminals will lose their jobs. Partners who lose their investment will disappear, and customers who can no longer trust a company will move to the competition.

What is Clone Phishing?

Clone phishing is one of the most sneaky and effective means of Phishing. In clone phishing, a phishing attacker uses a look-alike or copy of a legitimate email or link when in reality it is a clone or phishing email. The clone link contains malware or virus that would lead the victim to a fake website or open his contacts to internet fraud.

Clone phishing is so efficient because it is hard to spot at first glance. Attackers often use the following tricks to make it more efficient:

  • Copy the message of legitimate organizations word for word so they appear genuine. They only edit the links of the message.
  • Make use of urgent messages requiring the victim to act fast without thinking.
  • Using Name Spoofing, that is, copying the name of the legitimate source as the sender to make the mail look authentic.

An excellent example of clone phishing that works is a phishing email is sent to ‘Hurry Up and Renew Your Card Before It Expires.’ The attacker will boldly display the name of the credit card company in the mail and send a malicious link. The urgent nature of this message makes it more likely to work.

The Difference Between Phishing And Spear Phishing 

While Phishing targets individuals in your organization in general, a spear phishing attack is even more precise because it targets specific individuals. For this attack to work, the attacker must research his target. This attack‘s specificity makes it even more dangerous and believable.

For example, if the attacker knows that an individual in the organization uses a Microsoft 365 Suite. These attackers are experts at social engineering and making these phishing emails to be as real and effective as possible. The attacker can send an email requesting that he need to update his password and attach a link within the phishing email to what looks like the legitimate 365 login screen. 

Once the target inserts his name and his password into the fake URL, the attacker can access the target’s account. Using this access, the attacker can launch various attacks on the individual and the company.

The reason why this type of attack is so successful is that it combines specificity with clone phishing. The victim has no reason to doubt the email because it is the kind of mail that Suite 365 can send. Plus, the malicious email looks legitimate enough to deceive him. Without security awareness training all of these phishing attacks are extremely difficult to detect.

Other Types of Phishing

A phishing scam can come in various forms. To better protect your organization from it, you need to identify the many ways attackers try to phish your employees. We have already identified two types of Phishingclone phishing and spear phishing. Other types include:

Angler Phishing

Angler Phishing is a form of Phishing that targets unsatisfied social media users. The attacker may disguise himself as a customer service agent or a company’s official social media account. They will seek out customers who complain about the services of a company (preferably a financial institution).

Once they gain the victim‘s trust, they engage in a phishing attempt, often by sending out a link containing malware. The malware installs itself on the victim‘s computer once he clicks on the link. The link may also direct the victim to a fake malicious website that extracts information or money from them.

For example, a customer may complain about difficulty accessing his ABC bank account. The attacker may see it and quickly create a fake profile as an ABC bank customer care agent, and he would contact the customer as malicious actors and offer to correct the error.

During their interaction, he could request that the customer give him sensitive details of his bank account, or he might send the customer a link to a fake site. This false site will request personal details, which will be used either for identity theft or fraud.

Executive Phishing/ Whale Phishing

Executive Phishing is a form of Phishing that targets the senior executives of an organization. People most at risk are the CEOs and CFOs of large companies. Another name for this kind of Phishing is Whaling or whale phishing. As hard as it is to believe, whaling attacks one one of the most effective forms of Phishing.

Cybercriminals convince executive employees to part with funds or sensitive information about the organization. In this case, the attacks are more subtle and seek to manipulate the target. The attackers tend to ditch fake links or malicious URLs for simple requests for help from an apparently ‘more senior staff’ or “client.”

For example, an attacker may send an email to the CEO, claiming to be an important client. The email will have specific information about the CEO, like his title, position, and phone number. Usually, the title of the email will be marked as urgent and could request a long overdue payment. If the executive is busy or stressed, he might approve the transaction.

Executive Phishing is very effective because it contains precise details about its victims and personal information.

Barrel Phishing

Barrel Phishing is a more sophisticated type of Phishing that uses a two-pronged approach. The attacker sends the target the first mail to establish trust, and once he establishes that trust, he will send a second mail with a malicious link or attachment.

This method is tough to detect or resist because the two-prong approach is a highly effective pressure technique that works many times. Victims are more inclined to trust multiple emails. Another reason why this type of phishing works is because the sent emails are usually offering help.

For example, the employee of a company may get the first mail from an IT company warning him of a list of suspicious websites and links, which he must avoid. Half of the text would be missing. 

Sometime later, usually within the hour, the victim will receive another email informing him that the first mail forgot to include the link or attachment to the list of forbidden websites. The mail will urge the victim to click on the link or attachment.

Because he has received an earlier mail concerning this subject, the victim is more likely to trust this mail and click on the link. But once he does this, he installs malware or virus that extracts information from his system. Or he could be pushed to offer personal information about his company.

What is Vishing?

Vishing is using verbal messages or phone calls to convince a person to give up personal information that the attacker can use for dubious purposes. It is also called voice phishing.

Like all other forms of Phishing, the attacker tries to convince the victim that it is in his best interest to give up personal information. Some criminals use threatening messages to scare victims into taking hasty actions.

For example, a person could receive a call from someone who claims to be calling from law enforcement or a bank. The impostor threatens the victim with arrest or warns him about shutting down his account if he does not provide sensitive information

What is Smishing?

Smishing is a peculiar form of Phishing that uses SMS phishing or text messages to convince targets to give up personal information. Social security numbers, insurance numbers, or credit card details are highly sought in a phishing message.

The attacker can steal his victim‘s identity or funds with the information. When attackers target organizations, funds or access to customers’ databases are usually the significant goals.

Smishing has become more popular because victims are more likely to trust text messages and not consider them as phishing attempts. They believe that scammers are less likely to get their phone numbers, but this is not true. 

In reality, phone numbers are finite and more readily guessed or accessed by attackers. Hackers can send messages to random combinations of numbers. Because people read 98% of text messages, this is much more viable than emails.

How to Prevent Phishing?

When protecting your organization from Phishing, your organization is only as strong as your employee’s awareness of standard phishing techniques. 

A significant way to prevent Phishing is by first contacting Computronix where we specialize in cyber security. Additionally, training yourself and your employees to identify suspicious messages. They can do the following:

  • Check for inconsistent or outright poor grammar in emails and text messages and delete such messages immediately.
  • Avoid clicking on links from a random message and or suspicious email. They should report such emails as it could be a part of a phishing campaign.
  • Always check the URL of each website that require personal information. Secure websites usually begin with ‘HTTPS’ instead of ‘HTTP.’
  • Avoid pop-ups, especially when visiting unsafe sites. Pop-ups have a ton of malware that can phish your system.
  • Contact your cyber security company about security awareness training.

As an employer, you can do the following to protect your business from Phishing:

  • Rotate passwords to sensitive accounts between executive employees. This way, one employee doesn’t remain in one man’s power.
  • Install the best and the latest firewalls. These firewalls would protect your systems from hacking.
  • Update your systems and software regularly with recent protective technology.
  • Use anti-phishing apps and software that filter suspicious messages, spot malware, and alert you about known phishing websites.
  • Establish a data security platform to check and spot signs of cyber attacks.

Conclusion

Phishing is a cyber attack that can only work with the victim‘s cooperation. Usually, the attacker tries to convince the person to give out personal information that he can use to defraud him.

Attackers can launch many forms against your company using several mediums, from phone to social media. The best way to protect yourself would be to learn a phisher’s tell-tale signs.

Be careful about clicking on strange links, check for grammar and consistent URL addresses, and install the latest firewalls and protective software. All these will reduce the chances of being scammed.

Are you concerned about your business’s cyber security? Contact Computronix today! We have been building, managing, and securing professional business networks for over 25 years.