What is phishing and how to protect a company against it?
Phishing takes the lead among the methods used by cybercriminals. Around 90% of successful cyberattacks and data thefts begin with phishing. It's relatively easy and inexpensive to execute, yet highly effective. It relies on human error – the fact that individuals, due to fatigue or lack of awareness, might click on a message crafted by the hacker without thinking. Phishing poses a significant threat to companies because it takes just one employee to lead to a leak of critical data essential for the entire organization's functioning. What exactly is phishing? How much does it threaten a business? How can you protect against it? Find out below.
What is phishing?
Phishing is one of the methods cybercriminals like to employ. It can be likened to fishing – hackers cast a line with bait in the form of a cleverly prepared email or SMS. If a recipient takes the bait by clicking on a suspicious link or downloading an attachment, data like credit card numbers or login credentials are compromised, and the computer gets infected with malware. It takes just one employee falling for phishing to leak crucial information vital for the whole company's operation.
Hackers construct their messages to appear as though they come from a trustworthy person or institution, both in appearance and content. Therefore, they often impersonate government agencies, banks, couriers, or telecommunication companies. When a user clicks on a link in such a message, they're directed to a webpage strikingly similar to the original. There, they're asked to input their credentials or settle a bill. Downloading attachments usually means downloading malicious software. When hackers gain access to a company's resources through phishing, difficult times lie ahead for the enterprise.
Is phishing a serious threat to a company?
Data published by CERT Poland indicates that phishing was the most common type of cyber incidents in 2021. It accounted for almost 77% of all recorded incidents. That's a staggering 22,575 situations in just one year! Moreover, this number increased by 196% compared to 2020, and there are no signs of it decreasing.
Phishing can target anyone, whether an individual or an entire organization, regardless of its size, industry, or security level. If a company becomes a target of hackers, it will have to deal with unpleasant consequences. These consequences can include: drained bank accounts (if the cybercriminal gains access to credit card information), customer data breaches (resulting in decreased customer trust), leakage of critical operational data, severe reputation damage, IT system infections with ransomware (leading to extended downtime and additional costs).
How to minimize the risk of phishing in your company?
If you want to reduce the chances of your company falling victim to phishing, consider implementing the following set of guidelines:
- Apply the principle of limited trust to every message you receive, especially if you get an email from a courier when you're not expecting a package, or if a bank contacts you and you don't have any pending bills.
- Carefully examine the sender of the message. At first glance, scammers' email addresses may look just like genuine ones, but upon closer inspection, you can spot differences. For example, there might be a typo in the domain or the recipient's username could be shortened.
- Look at the domain address you're directed to. Fake addresses can be deceptively similar but differ in details, including substituting "1" for "l." If you notice anything suspicious, do not log in or provide any critical information that the page requests.
- Before downloading an attachment, scrutinize the content of the message. Emails from scammers often contain typos, punctuation errors, misspellings, or grammatical mistakes.
- Never reuse the same password multiple times. If login details are compromised, a cybercriminal will only gain access to one account, not multiple. This reduces potential damage.
- Implement multi-factor authentication wherever possible. This involves an additional identity verification step during login, such as entering a code received via SMS. Even if a hacker obtains a login and password, they won't be able to access company resources without the extra step.
- Remember employee training. Every staff member should be familiar with these guidelines, not just the IT department or management. Ensure all employees are trained to recognize phishing attempts and know what warning signs to look for.
- Provide robust antivirus software on company computers. This software helps combat trojans, worms, or ransomware that can infiltrate computers during a phishing attack. Remember, having antivirus software is not enough; it must be regularly updated.
- Invest in insurance. No company is 100% secure online. Even the best defenses can fail. Prepare for the possibility that your business might suffer from a phishing attack. Invest in cyber insurance to help recover more swiftly.
How else to enhance your company's cybersecurity? If you want to learn more about cybersecurity matters, regularly visit our blog, as well as our fanpage or LinkedIn profile, where we share useful information.
Until next time!