In the past few years, numerous cyberattacks and data breaches have impacted many of America's largest companies and their end-users. In many of these cases, millions of sensitive files, including credit card numbers, passwords, and other confidential customer data, were compromised all because an employee clicked on a phishing link.
Phishing is one of the most common forms of cybercrime and one of the biggest threats to organizations today - and they're on the rise. These attacks, which prey on the fear, trust and curiosity of everyday users, can take on many forms, whether it be impersonating a coworker, an urgent request from a bank, or even a fake audit notification.
Remote workers are especially vulnerable to phishing attacks, where a small percentage of end-user traffic is protected by corporate firewalls. With more and more work happening outside of corporate campuses, here are a few tips to protect organizations from phishing attacks:
Educate users on how to spot phishing
Raising user awareness of cyber dangers must be a priority for all businesses, especially when it comes to mitigating phishing attacks. That’s because attackers who use phishing are skilled in tricking users into clicking links leading to compromised websites designed to appear legitimate.
Also, these attackers don’t just target large enterprises. Recent reporting shows companies with less than 100 employees are three times more likely to be the target of a cyberattack — yet, they often lack sufficient cybersecurity measures and resources to manage their risk.
Training employees to identify and avoid suspicious emails, scrutinize senders, and always verify the authenticity of urgent requests for sensitive or confidential information are a must to prevent phishing attacks. This includes training employees to check for slight variations in spelling or format in the domain name and find alternate methods to verify suspicious emails (not by hitting reply).
For example, hackers’ URLs may only differentiate from the verified URL by one letter or number, meaning employees must do their due diligence when confirming senders. If something feels a bit “off,” or doesn’t seem quite right, encourage employees to follow their instincts and find a safe way to verify the email.
Enact common-sense policies to support user education
A wide range of phishing campaigns enabling ransomware, offering fake prizes, demanding unnecessary payments, stealing credentials and more have been identified across the threat landscape — yet attackers show no signs of letting up.
The reality is that technology alone cannot guarantee the security of a company’s data, so common-sense policies must support user education. If an organization trains users and does nothing to enforce security rules, chances are users will fall back on bad habits that can lead to a phishing attack, costing the company time, money and its reputation.
The same goes for hybrid work policies. Employees should keep work and personal activities separate. Using company email accounts exclusively for work-related purposes and company-issued devices when conducting work can help minimize the chance of phishing attacks. Additionally, organizations should only grant employees access to those systems they need to do their jobs.
Set a strategy and stick to it
End-users are often the weak points that enable cybersecurity attacks, but educating employees is only part of the battle because security is not static and needs to evolve with the company. With attackers constantly changing and refining their tactics to trick users, companies must have a solid technology-backed cybersecurity strategy and provide cybersecurity training to mitigate and prevent phishing attacks, which are becoming harder to spot.
Whether it’s costly malware, ransomware, bots or a phishing attempt, organizations need to implement cybersecurity measures that include endpoint protection programs, firewalls and network security solutions that proactively help protect all devices connected to their network.