10 Tips for Detecting and Mitigating Phishing Attacks

Despite being a well known problem, phishing remains a significant issue for companies. Notwithstanding the increased sophistication of new malware and advanced persistent threats, phishing is still one of the most effective ways to breach networks, steal money and credentials, and exfiltrate data. Phishing can be the first stage in a sophisticated information-stealing attack. It’s a tried and true method that cyber criminals have been using for years but are now adapting to their own needs. It remains pervasive because phishers get away with it so often. Read on for ways to detect and mitigate phishing attacks.

There are many types of phishing attacks organisations must be wary of. The main outcomes of all phishing attempts are to steal credentials, instigate a ransomware attack, install malware or trick a person into making a payment for a fictitious service. “Phishing emails are one of the biggest threats to technology users today”, cautions Ronan Lavelle, CEO of cyber security firm Elasticito. “Phishing attacks are successful because they are leveraging familiarity between consumers and well known brands and entities.”

Here are ten things that organisations should be doing to mitigate their exposure to phishing threats:

  1. Appreciate the need for a holistic approach to the problem. Understand that an effective anti-phishing program deals with both technical and non-technical solutions. A solid phishing defence team must include individuals from every part of the organisation, including IT and security teams, as well as employees across all business functions.
  2. Use technology to screen incoming emails for fraud and other malicious messages. Email has become one of the primary means by which businesses can communicate with each other — dozens of emails are exchanged daily, containing intra-organisational communications, personal exchanges, and customer information. It is very easy for hackers to attempt phishing attacks via these communications. Having a number of anti-phishing tools installed is the first step. On top of that, implementing a good spam filter and training employees in email safety are essential.
  3. When it comes to online safety, your browser can protect you from dangerous online scams. Browser-integrated anti-phishing solutions, such as SpoofGuard and PwdHash, provide effective help by protecting against unauthorized IP and MAC addresses. These tools are ideal for combatting phishing attacks, which has risen in recent years.
  4. Security basics are always good to have. Despite the constant evolution of online security threats, it is still important to be aware of basic security measures. These include firewalls, antivirus software, and password protection.
  5. Security awareness training is a vital part of preparing employees on how to identify and avoid phishing attacks. While it might seem simple, the fact that many phishing attacks require some kind of action or response from users to succeed is obvious. With training, employees will be able to identify and protect against phishing attempts. It is extremely important for all campaigns to be completely meaningful, relevant, and useful to the specific organisation. The more relevant the information is to the job position, the higher the retention levels will be. It is also extremely important to involve all ranks in the organisation, including executives. The involvement of the higher management sends a signal to the entire organisation about the importance of the program, but also because executives are one of the favorite targets of spear-phishing attempts. Furthermore, make sure training is engaging; involve staff in role based simulations and training. SANS Security Awareness has programs that provide best practices for avoiding such threats. SANS Security Awareness offers an expansive library of modules for all learner types with content that is regularly reviewed, revised and expanded by security education experts to cater to the needs of all sections and levels in an organisation.
  6. Establish a knowledge baseline by running phishing simulations. Many phishing attempts are stealthy in nature and can be hard to detect manually. To ensure users are aware of all types of phishing attempts, we should use phishing simulations to teach them how to guard against these attacks. They should be taught how to verify the actual sender’s address or URL with simple actions like hovering above links and knowing when to go the extra step of actually contacting the source to verify the legitimacy of the request. Another important topic in the context of cyber security is the need to explain how a company’s privacy policy applies to personal information that resides on a company system or device.
  7. Reinforce what is learned with continuous simulation and training. Practicing phishing is an important part of learning new, safe behaviors behind the keyboard. Though students may not realise it, the best way to learn about phishing tactics is through practice, especially when done in a controlled environment. One of the best ways to train employees about social engineering is through interactive simulation games. Prevention starts with awareness and education about a particular type of scam that is specifically targeting your personal habits. There are many free resources for users to learn about how they can become “human firewalls” against phishing attacks.
  8. Your company should not only involve but also encourage employees to take part in or lead company-wide training. It is crucial for employees to feel that they play a role in protecting the company from phishing attacks. They should be encouraged to report suspicious IT-related behavior to their immediate supervisors as soon as they notice it. n alternative, users could report scams to the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) by sending an email to reportphishing@apwg.org for analysis. Some larger organisations and government entities are already providing automated, easy ways for users to report anything worth noting using tools like the VirusTotal, PhishBlockList and Malware Patrol that can report suspicious emails with the click of a button.
  9. Take advantage of all the information you are getting. Although spam-filtering solutions have helped reduce the amount of spam that you will receive, there are software and analysis tools that can help you take advantage of the analysis of all suspicious activity reported. PhishLabs or PhishTank, for example, can be very useful tools for those who are concerned about the potential threats of email phishing and hacking. It lets users take immediate action before they are targeted and provides them with real-time threat intelligence.
  10. You’ve got to prepare for the worst. Security must be taken seriously and implemented with intensity. No business, nowadays, is small enough to withstand unscarred the loss of sensitive data or the effects of ransomware. It is critical for organisations to have a strong data management and recovery strategy in place. Policies should cover the proper use of IT systems, as well as the protection of data and their recovery. Backups, tests, and industry-mandated standards are all important components of an effective data management plan.

Phishing scams are the most common type of cyber attack. They are designed to trick you into disclosing sensitive information such as passwords, bank account details, and contact information. They are likely to happen sooner rather than later – but you can protect yourself from phishing scams.

If you would like to see how Elasticito can help you identify and prevent data breaches, schedule a demo with our team today.