Phishing is a scam, a form of social engineering that aims to steal your personal information, such as passwords, usernames and financial data. It’s easy for hackers to send out mass emails that look like they are from legitimate sources. These emails often have links or attachments that might contain malware, spyware, or ransomware. Your business can also be at risk for phishing attacks, leaving your company’s private information, financials, and proprietary trade data vulnerable to theft and damage. In this article, we’re going to look first at what phishing attacks are, some different types of scams, and then a few ways to prevent phishing attacks from invading you and your business.
The Damage Caused by Phishing Attacks
Every year, phishing scams cause hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars, in losses worldwide. In fact, over 37 percent of all data breaches are caused by phishing attacks. It is currently estimated that the annual cost of all cybersecurity attacks has reached $6 trillion worldwide, with phishing alone costing many firms as much as $15 million in a single attack.
These figures make up a considerable threat for companies within all markets, especially for small businesses who have more difficulty recouping losses from cyber attacks. Small businesses carry less capital and other resources than large corporations. And instead of an attack simply leading to a great inconvenience for customers and a difficult public relations matter for the company, attacks on smaller businesses can sometimes be bad enough to put the entire future of the company at risk.
Types of Phishing Scams
Phishing can take on many forms, and once your company is a target, it can be difficult to know what you’re up against. So, if you have been a victim of a phishing attack and have lost access to your information and finances, you should pursue professional help from an expert. They might be able to recover some of your lost data or even prevent the theft from happening again. Types of phishing attacks include:
Drive-By: Drive-by cyber-attacks are designed to create a sense of urgency in the victim. They often include malicious programs that unsuspecting victims download to their device. They can be bundled with software that attackers disguise as legitimate programs you might need.
Business Email Compromise (BEC): These are targeted emails which appear legitimate and sent to businesses with the hope that employees will open them and download attachments or files. Sometimes, when these emails are opened, the sender can gain direct access to the system.
Data Entry: These attacks lead individuals to sources designed to get their personal or professional information. Often, responding to these invasions redirects users to fake landing pages that request private information, which can ultimately be used to access important data.
Spear Phishing: Similar to some other attacks, spear phishing attempts to acquire sensitive information or gain access to a computer system by sending counterfeit messages that appear legitimate. If a link is opened, these may lead users to bogus sites that transfer malicious programs to your device.
Whaling: Whaling attacks are focused on senior executives or other prime decision makers. These are generally a lot more subtle with their tactics. Tax information is a popular end goal for attackers here, since it contains a great deal of personal and financial information that can be used to gain access to executives’ money or important company data.
There are several other types of phishing scams with many variances. Still, all attacks are an attempt to gain access to private information, company files, financials, and other valuable data.
Phishing prevention tips
As soon as you receive an email that looks like it may be a phishing scam, let your company’s IT team know. They should be able to tell if the email is from a legitimate source or not. Avoid clicking on ads or prompts, often very professional looking, that offer security products or other services.
If your company does get hit with a phishing attack, and user information has been stolen, let your management team and your IT department know immediately. They should have a plan in place to protect your company against future attacks.
If you notice something suspicious on social media and want to report it, make sure you do so quickly before others access it. Social media posts are often shared on multiple accounts within minutes of being posted, spreading dangerous links or programs quickly. Some other things to look out for include:
– Messages that ask you to click on a link and provide personal information in order to receive some sort of prize or special product.
– Messages that have misspelled words or incorrect grammar
– Messages that use official logos without permission
Messages declaring that they are from reputable tech companies offering security products or protection from attacks which they state have already taken place. These are simply attempts to get your information.
Protecting your company against phishing scams
Phishing scams can sometimes be difficult to spot. However, there are certain signs and techniques that you should use to protect your company against them. First, it’s important for you to know how phishers operate. They often send out campaigns that target specific people or companies for the purpose of gathering information about them. They do a lot of research into what companies might be the most beneficial to access, or what kinds of individuals may be more susceptible to personal phishing attacks.
If your company is being targeted by a phishing scam, then the first thing you should do is inform those who might be affected by the scam. You want to make sure your employees are aware of what’s going on and can act accordingly if they receive one of these emails in the future. Take time to explain what these emails, texts, or ad messages look like, how they work and what every employee should do if they come across one. Education is key. If everyone is on the same page, you’ll be able to control the inbound and outbound flow of information a lot better.
In addition, it’s vital that you don’t share any personal information for any reason via email with anyone outside of your company without checking their identity first. Doing this will help keep your company safe in the future and also reduce the amount of spam sent to your inbox each day.
Make sure you have the best IT support possible
Whether you put together a killer in-house team or contract with an excellent IT provider, having the right personnel with substantial experience will help you protect your business and your employees from significant threats. IT specialists understand all kinds of phishing and other cyber threats. They are trained on how to prevent them and how to respond when attacks do get through. Additionally, your IT professionals will help you keep your system up to date, running smoothly, and spot areas where newer technologies might help you stay even safer and streamline your workflow.
Phishing scams are highly sophisticated attacks and pose tremendous consequences for business and individuals. They enable criminals to gain access to your systems and steal vital information which can lead to financial losses,the theft of proprietary company data, a damaged public image, loss of customer confidence, and compromised professional relationships with strategic partners.
Do everything you can to protect yourself and your company. Train your employees on how to handle potential threats. Get the best IT support you can. Don’t ever open suspicious emails, texts or other messages and never give out personal or access information through emails or landing pages, unless the sender of the email has been thoroughly checked by your IT department and senior officers.
Protecting your information is often a neglected area of focus for business owners. Putting your security measures in place makes sure your business continues to grow year after year, never losing a step, or several, to the pain and considerable losses caused by cyber attacks.
Tech Masters is dedicated to the safety of your business. We help small businesses protect their most valuable data and assets by giving them the tools, training, and support they need most to keep on doing what they do best without having to worry about cyber attacks. Call or email Tech Masters today to up your security game.
For quick answers about phishing scams, check out our frequently asked questions below.
What is phishing?
Phishing scams are cyber attacks that come in many forms, but all done with the purpose of stealing personal information, professional data or financials, by tricking users into clicking on dangerous links, downloading malicious programs, or opening files that can transfer dangerous software to your device.
How dangerous are phishing scams?
As of 2021, it is estimated that cyber attacks cost us much as $6 trillion worldwide. Close to 37% of data breaches are phishing attacks. Individual companies are losing millions of dollars to these scams, putting not only their financial information at risk, but also proprietary product or service info, corporate data, and the personal information of individual employees and executives.
What can I do to protect my company from phishing scams?
You can do several things. Educate your employees on the dangers of phishing and other cyber threats. No one should open suspicious emails or messages, or send personal information over emails without first having your IT department and senior officers verify the authenticity of both the individual and the message. Stay up to date on the newest security technologies and most of all, make sure you have strong IT support, either in-house or through an outsourced partner with solid experience.
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