Phishing Attack Prevention: How to Identify & Avoid Phishing

Phishing is one of the most dangerous threats that both individuals and organizations face in the cybersecurity world. According to Proofpoint 2022 Report, 83% of respondents claim that their organizations experienced at least one successful email attack via phishing in 2021.

Also, the report states that about 78% of organizations experienced an email-based ransomware attack in 2021. This shows that the rate of phishing attacks is growing exponentially.

Phishing attacks pose great threats to businesses, and they remain one of the top causes of data compromises. IBM’s Cost of Data Breach Report claims that organizations have spent over $4.24 million on data breach costs through 2021, an increase from $3.6 million in 2020. Identifying phishing attempts is the first step to preventing and mitigating the risks.

This article is about phishing attack prevention, and we’ll discuss how you can protect against phishing attacks.

But what is phishing?

What is Phishing Attack?

The first step to identifying phishing attempts is to know what phishing entails. This is a social engineering attack where hackers send malicious messages that appear to come from trusted sources. Phishers aim to steal sensitive data, including social security numbers, login credentials, etc.

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Phishing attacks are of various types, such as spear phishing, email account takeover, phone phishing, SMS phishing, angler phishing, and whaling. You may receive an email from a reputable company you transact with, like your financial institution. Then the message informs you of a problem requiring urgent attention.

How to Identify Phishing Attacks?

Cyber actors use attack vectors like email or SMS to trick their victims into releasing sensitive information. They’re trying to steal Personally Identifiable Information, such as your name, Social Security Numbers, account numbers, or passwords, to gain access to your account.

Cybercriminals are getting more creative in their attacks, but there are ways to identify a phishing email.

Unfamiliar Tone or Greetings

The first thing that identifies a phishing email is that the language is often not the same. For instance, a family being too formal or a coursemate suddenly becomes overfamiliar. Also, emails from your employees should display informal greetings. Messages that start with dear or greetings not used in informal settings are from unknown sources.

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Spelling and Grammar Error

Another common flag of a phishing email is the incorrect use of grammar or spelling errors. Organizations use grammar check and auto-correct features to ensure their outgoing mails are error-free before sending them. Messages received with grammar and spelling errors originate from a malicious source.

Inconsistencies in Domain Name, Links, and Email Address

Another way to spot phishing mail is to look for disparities in the links, domain names, and email addresses. Does the message originate from an organization you’re familiar with? If yes, compare the email address and the domain name with previous messages from the same organization.

If the message includes a link, hover the pointer over it to display what pops up. For instance, if the message is from your bank, and the link doesn’t include your bank’s URL, that’s a huge red flag. Don’t click if the domain doesn’t match.

Threats or Sense of Urgency

Emails phishers create a sense of urgency to confuse victims into engaging their message or clicking a link without proper investigation. They believe that reading messages in haste would make victims miss other inconsistencies in the email. Messages threatening loss of opportunity within a brief timeframe should be considered malicious.

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Malicious Attachments

Treat messages with attachments with caution, as downloading malicious content can compromise your network. Don’t click on an attachment if you’re not expecting any file from the sender.

How to Avoid Phishing Email?

Now that you can identify phishing emails let’s discuss how to protect against a phishing attack. While email filters can help keep phishing emails out of your inbox, some scammers use sophisticated tactics to evade detection by email filters. Here are measures you can take to prevent phishing attacks:

Be Informed About Phishing Tactics

Scammers are looking for new ways to execute phishing attacks. Organizations will fall prey to phishing attacks if they don’t stay abreast of these new phishing techniques. Stay up-to-date with cybersecurity news about the latest phishing scams and their key identifiers.

Knowing about these attacks puts you at a much lower risk of being a victim. Conduct regular cybersecurity awareness and simulate real-world phishing attacks for all employees to teach them how to prevent phishing attacks.

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Think Before You Click

Clicking links from random or unknown sources isn’t the smartest move. Hover over the links to display the domain name before clicking on them. Do they direct you to the intended destination?

A phishing mail may claim to be from your bank, but the link leads you to a malicious site that replicates the original site – beware! Some malicious emails begin with a “Dear Customer” salutation, so you should be vigilant about this. Visit the site directly from another tab rather than clicking the link.

Never Give Out Personal Information

No reputable organization requests personal information via email, so beware of these tactics. Never give out personal information or financial information over the web. Even the FBI advised internet users to post as little information as possible to avoid being hacked. More often than not, phishing directs users to a site requesting personal and financial information. When doubting the authenticity of an email, visit the official site, get their number, and call to confirm.

Use Anti-virus Software and Firewall

Antivirus has special signatures that help avoid phishing attacks. New phishing scams are detected, so update your software regularly to add new definitions to detect these new threats. Using anti-virus and firewall settings can prevent phishing attacks. Firewall protection prevents access to malicious files by blocking phishing threats. While anti-virus scans every file entering your computer through the internet.

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Avoid Pop-ups

Pop-ups can disguise as legitimate parts of a website, whereas they harbor malicious links and malware that can compromise your computer. Most web browsers have a feature that lets you block pop-ups, allowing them only when needed. However, if any pop-up displays by chance, don’t click the “Close” button as it often leads to phishing websites. Instead, hit the “X” at the upper corner of the window.

Reduce Email Phishing with your DMARC Solutions

Dmarc or Domain-based Message Authentication. Reporting and Conformance is an email authentication standard that allows recipients to validate emails from a legitimate source. Setting your DMARC policy mode of “p”=rejection can be an efficient solution against email phishing. It helps to verify the origin and block out malicious emails.

EasyDMARC DMARC Checker can help you check, validate, and lookup your DMARC record to ensure there are no issues with your DMARC deployment.

Conclusion

Organizations with sensitive information will always be a target of email phishing attacks. There arise the need to implement phishing attack preventive measures to safeguard your sensitive information.

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Published on July 26, 2022 by Beatrice Stefanescu. Filed under: , , , .

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