Phishing emails are one of the most common methods that cybercriminals use to gain access to an organization’s network and steal employee login credentials. These phishing attacks are so popular among cybercriminals because they are relatively easy to perform – especially compared to identifying and exploiting a vulnerability in the target network – and often have a high success rate.
Protecting against the phishing threat requires a comprehensive anti-phishing strategy. Adopting the following five anti-phishing principles can help to dramatically reduce an organization’s exposure to phishing attacks.
Phishing attacks use human nature to trick people into doing something that the attacker wants. Common techniques include creating a sense of urgency and offering the recipient of the email something that they desire, which increases the probability that the target will take action without properly validating the email.
Phishers will often take advantage of current events or impersonate trusted brands in their emails to make them more realistic. By offering information, goods, or opportunities related to a current event or creating a situation where the recipient believes that something has gone wrong (like a fake package delivery notification), these emails increase their probability of getting clicks.
Phishing techniques and the pretexts used by cybercriminals to make their attacks seem realistic change regularly. Employees should be trained on current phishing trends to increase the probability that they can identify and properly respond to phishing attacks.
Most phishing attacks don’t target a single employee within a company. Instead, an attacker will send a number of emails, potentially even working their way alphabetically through the organization’s entire email directory. Since the attacker only needs one person to fall for a scam for the attack to be successful, performing such a widespread attack increases their chances.
For this reason, it is important to train employees to report any emails that they suspect may be phishing attacks. Even if one employee doesn’t fall for the phish, another might. If the IT/security team is made aware of the attack, they can take action to delete malicious emails before they are opened and perform malware removal and password resets for compromised users.
Every organization should have an email security policy, including anti-phishing principles defining acceptable use of email (and other communications solutions). This policy should describe acceptable and unacceptable use and how to respond to potential attacks (i.e. reporting suspicious emails to IT and deleting any known phishing content).
The organization’s email policy should be regularly reviewed as part of the organization’s cybersecurity awareness training. Through repetition, this helps to ensure that employees are familiar with the policy and its requirements. Employees knowledgeable about enterprise policy are more likely to respond appropriately to an attack and prevent its success.
User credentials are one of the primary targets of cybercriminals. If an attacker has an employee’s password, it can be much more difficult to detect ongoing attacks since they can masquerade as a legitimate user. Additionally, employees commonly use the same password for multiple online accounts, meaning that a single breached password can grant an attacker access to a number of the employee’s online accounts.
For this reason, credential theft is a common target of phishing emails. It is important to educate employees about the threat posed by phishing emails and about password security best practices. These include the need to use unique, strong passwords for all of their accounts, to never share passwords (especially over email), and to never enter a password into a page reached by a link that was sent via email.
Despite an organization’s best efforts, employee cybersecurity education will not provide perfect protection against phishing attacks. These attacks are growing increasingly sophisticated and can even trick cybersecurity experts in some cases. While phishing education can help to reduce the number of successful phishing attacks against the organization, some emails are likely to sneak through.
Minimizing the risk of phishing attacks to the organization requires AI-based anti-phishing software capable of identifying and blocking phishing content across all of the organization’s communication services (email, productivity applications, etc.) and platforms (employee workstations, mobile devices, etc.). This comprehensive coverage is necessary since phishing content can come over any medium, and employees may be more vulnerable to attacks when using mobile devices.
Protecting against phishing attacks requires a comprehensive anti-phishing strategy composed of making employees aware of the anti-phishing principles, backed up by a robust anti-phishing solution. An AI-based phishing detection solution can filter out the majority of phishing emails, reducing the probability that an employee will fall for one and expose the organization to attacks.
To learn more about protecting against phishing attacks and schedule a private demo to see for yourself how Check Point’s email security solutions can help you to identify and block phishing attacks against your organization.