What is Phishing icon

What Is Phishing?

Cyberattacks are common in the modern era, since every business and individual has a reason to be online, and even abstract quantities like data can be valuable to a hacker. The better educated you are on the most common types of cyberattacks and scams, the more you can do to prevent them.

 

Phishing Schemes: The Basics

One of the most common types of online fraud is known as phishing, a term that arose in the 1990s. Put simply, phishing is a deliberate attempt to obtain sensitive information like login credentials or credit card numbers by masquerading as someone trustworthy.

There are several ways phishing scams can be implemented, including:

  • Website fabrication. Someone may mock up a website that looks like the login page for an existing software company, but with a slightly different URL. If an end-user is fooled, they may enter their username and password without forethought.
  • Email spoofing. Phishing attempts are also common via email. A hacker may send a message to someone, pretending to be an authority figure at a well-known website or a trusted partner institution, and request information from their recipient.
  • Direct social engineering. Other attempts are more direct and specific; for example, someone may try to initiate a conversation via instant messenger.

Additionally, phishing attempts can be categorized as “spear phishing” or “bulk phishing.” In spear phishing, a criminal specifically targets an individual or an organization, trying to obtain specific pieces of information, often with a specific end goal in mind. By contrast, bulk phishing attempts frequently rely on static, long-term structures to capture as many pieces of information from different individuals as possible.

It is also important to know that phishing is relevant across a wide variety of delivery channels. Probably one of the most common ones is mobile phishing; due to the small screens and shortened links, phishing links and webpages become harder to discern from legitimate ones, so users are more prone to falling into phishing schemes via their mobile devices.

 

The Consequences of a Successful Phishing Attack

Because of the cute colloquial name and the simplicity of the scheme, many businesses don’t take phishing seriously. However, the consequences can be devastating for your business. If one of your employees hands over their login credentials to a malicious entity, your entire network could be compromised.

Phishing attacks are happening, and they are on the rise. As a matter of fact, 32% of all breaches involve a phishing attack1. Ultimately, the average successful phishing scam can cost a company $3.86 million, or $7.9 million in the United States. A mega breach could cost hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars.

Accordingly, it’s best to protect your employees and your organization from phishing attempts as proactively as possible.

 

How to Protect Yourself Against Phishing

There are several steps you can take to protect your business against phishing scams, essentially belonging to one of two broad categories of solutions.

First, there are technical solutions. These are tools, applications, and systems designed to limit the possibility of a phishing scam reaching one of your employees. For example, you may be able to set up a smart email filter that can detect language common in a phishing scheme. You may also be able to detect fraudulent URLs that attempt to mimic those of popular websites, and set up a URL filter to ensure your employees never visit these sites by mistake.

Here, it’s also a good idea to invest in an Anti-Phishing  solution.

As phishing attacks can come from many different entry points, we recommend learning each one to make sure your organization is secure:

Second, there are employee training solutions, which are arguably even more important. If your employees are aware of and educated on phishing scams, they’ll be far less likely to fall for one—even if they see an email or visit a webpage that’s incredibly convincing.

Basic precautions are plenty to thwart the majority of phishing attempts. First, make sure your employees know that no agent, of any company, will ever ask directly for their login credentials. Second, caution them to double-check the URL of the site they’re visiting, and to look for any design or structural elements that might seem “off” when they visit a page.

Are you interested in improving your business’s security against phishing scams? Or are you in need of better all-around security solutions? Contact Check Point Software for more information today!

1Verizon 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report

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