Cybersecurity

Empowering Your Workforce to Stay Safe From the Threat of Phishing Attacks

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In today’s digital landscape, cybersecurity is more important than ever. Phishing emails, designed to trick people into revealing personal or confidential information or get them to click on links that go to malicious websites, are a common way for cyber attackers to bypass security.

People are often the weakest link in the cyber defence chain. This is not said to disparage anyone. We all make mistakes, and the Phishing attacks and other tactics criminals use are sophisticated and very convincing.

An effective way to counter the risk of phishing attacks is to follow the age-old adage: “Know your enemy.” If you empower your staff with the skills they need to spot Phishing and other engineering attack methods, this, coupled with robust technical cybersecurity solutions, can go a long way in protecting your staff, customers, data, and systems from cyber-attacks.

Phishing Attacks are a Significant Cyber Threat

Phishing attacks are a predominant method for cybercriminals to infiltrate IT systems to steal sensitive data or deploy malware (including ransomware). Statistics show that over two-thirds of cybercrime groups employ various Phishing techniques due to the high success rates and minimal effort required to use the method. The Anti-Phishing Working Group reported a record-breaking 4.7 million Phishing attacks in 2022, a threefold increase in just two years.

While many security tools effectively detect and block Phishing emails, the more sophisticated emails often slip through to recipients. The evolution of these attacks will accelerate with the advent of GenerativeAI tools, aiding attackers in crafting messages with better grammar and fewer mistakes that automated checkers can often spot.

 

Empowering Your Team to Recognise Phishing Attempts

Cybersecurity awareness training and good communication with your organisation’s staff are essential for defending against Phishing and related attack methods.

It’s best to provide cybersecurity awareness training using an easy-to-use solution designed to focus on each individual’s weaknesses. See the usecure landing page on the Halodata website for info on an ideal solution to deliver this training.

The staff awareness training, and general knowledge transfer within your organisation, should emphasise the following key indicators that an email or other messaging method might be fake:

  1. Suspicious Domain Names – Make sure people are aware of and cautious about suspicious email and website addresses. Train people to look for tricks attackers use, such as replacing the letter ‘o’ with a zero ’0’ when imitating real domain names. Always verify requests for sensitive data through alternate means, such as a phone call or a separate email to a known good email address.
  2. Poor Formatting and Language – Phishing emails often contain glaring spelling and grammar errors. If an email appears to be from a reputable source but is riddled with language issues and spelling mistakes, it should raise suspicion. These mistakes will be less obvious in future as Generative AI can write properly formed emails for attackers.
  3. Unusual Attachments – Exercise caution when an email encourages you to open attachments, especially if they seem atypical or unrelated to your usual tasks. There is a case to make to tell people never to open attachments or click links in emails. However, alternative file-sharing solutions that are as easy to use as email need to be in place.
  4. False Urgency – Phishing emails often create a false sense of urgency, pressuring recipients to act quickly. They often say you must follow the link now or open the attachment immediately. They’ll often say that a senior staff member is waiting for the info to increase the pressure. Treat such requests with scepticism, and verify the request independently, as suggested in point 1.
  5. Unusual Requests – If an email asks for actions or information that seem unusual for your role or the organisation, don’t act on the request. Pass the request on to a manager or the IT team if you suspect it’s a Phishing attempt. Some Phishing attempts are very obvious and ask for login credentials or financial information. These should be passed to the IT team for analysis so they can ensure filters are adjusted to stop similar Phishing emails from getting through.

 

General Principles to Impart to Staff

As a bare minimum, everyone in your organisation should know and be empowered to follow the following three principles. There should be no repercussions for not following requests for information in an email. Even if the request turns out to be legitimate and causes a delay in some business process or decision-making. Being over-cautious regarding cybersecurity is to be encouraged, and possibly rewarded!

The three guidelines everyone should follow:

  1. Treat Emails with Suspicion – Encourage your team to view any email requesting sensitive information or actions as potentially hostile.
  2. Independent Verification – Stress the importance of verifying the legitimacy of requests through other channels like phone calls, alternative messaging systems, or in-person communication.
  3. Forward Suspicious Emails – Instruct your team to promptly forward any suspicious emails to the IT cybersecurity team for verification. As long as doing this will not disclose any sensitive information in the email text.

Final Thoughts

By building a culture of cybersecurity awareness and empowering your team to recognise and respond to phishing attempts, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to these pervasive social engineering attacks. The best defence against Phishing is a well-informed and vigilant workforce backed by industry-leading cybersecurity solutions.

Halodata, our Partners, and our curated Vendors can help you build a cyber-aware workforce – supported by robust cybersecurity tools. Talk to the Halodata team today to find out more. 

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