Your bank sends an email saying your password needs to be reset. It instructs you to go to a specific URL only to be redirected to a seemingly harmless webpage similar to your bank’s website. You’re asked to enter your old password and create a new one to “reset” it. You click submit, and a few hours later, all your savings are gone. You’ve just been scammed.
Cyberattacks are increasing every year. According to Proofpoint’s 2021 State of the Phish Report, about 57% of the respondents in a third-party survey said they experienced a phishing attack in 2020, a 2% increase from 2019. The impact of these scams was evident in the loss of data (60%) and credential/account compromise (52%).
To address this growing problem and prevent it from happening, especially in the most vulnerable industries, people and companies should know how phishing attacks work.
What is Phishing?
Phishing is a type of cyberattack wherein fraudsters pose as legitimate entities and deceive customers, employees, and organizations—anyone or any business cybercriminals choose as targets. They can contact victims through various ways like emails, websites, or text messages to trick the user into giving out their information.
These fraudsters are known to be resourceful, using malware, network attacks, and code injection. They also do it by manipulating users into performing actions like clicking on a suspicious link, divulging sensitive data credentials by fake logins, or installing a malicious file to get the information they want.
The information is used to access private accounts and can even result in identity theft and financial fraud. According to the Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (Statistics Netherland), about 2.5 million Dutch people were victims of cybercrime in 2021, with 0.8% of them to phishing schemes.
Types of Phishing Methods
1. Spear Phishing
Rather than a typical phishing scheme where scammers send an email blast and see who falls victim, this fraudulent technique is more specific.
As the name suggests, spear phishing is a highly-targeted form of phishing. Hackers would pose as legitimate entities and send malicious emails to certain unsuspecting individuals of a specific organization.
Whaling closely resembles spear phishing. However, instead of targeting an individual of a specific organization, scammers go for high officials or senior executives because they have more access to sensitive data than lower-level employees.
Voice phishing, or vishing, uses an automated call to relay messages sounding like they are sent from a legitimate institution. The attacker then asks its victims to divulge sensitive information such as one-time pins, passwords, or other verification details like birthdays.
4. Email Phishing
Hackers send a general email to as many addresses as possible and hope to catch a victim by impersonating a legitimate organization or person. The emails are written with a sense of urgency so that victims respond quickly. Their goal is to manipulate the victim into performing actions such as clicking a malicious link or installing harmful software.
Smishing or SMS phishing uses text messages to carry out the attack. Scammers send texts to users as if they are legitimate entities. The messages usually contain links to discounts, coupon codes, etc., to entice victims to click on the deceptive link.
In this phishing scheme, hackers exploit the internet by fooling victims into clicking on links that take them to bogus websites. They do this by targeting DNS (Domain Name System) servers and redirecting victims to fraudulent websites with fake IP addresses. The victims’ data becomes open for hackers to take through a corrupted DNS server.
7. Search Engine Phishing
This type of phishing involves hackers creating their own websites to get indexed on search engines. These fake websites will often feature cheap products and great deals to lure unsuspecting online shoppers. Once users click on the link, they’re asked to register an account and input their bank details to complete their purchase, resulting in fraud.
8. Social Media Phishing
Attackers use social networking sites to obtain users’ sensitive information or trick them into clicking malicious links. Fraudsters can create fake accounts and impersonate well-known brands to gain the trust of their victims and ask for their information.
Impacts of Phishing on Organizations
1. Loss of revenue
When organizations fall victim to a phishing scam, they may lose a large amount of money. Once hackers obtain the information they want, such as bank credentials, hackers can empty organizations’ bank accounts, resulting in revenue loss.
2. Damaged reputation
Cybercriminals would often impersonate legitimate entities to get the information they want from their victims. Organizations who fall victim to phishing schemes considerably damage their reputation because they let the attack happen to their clients. Large companies that handle a vast amount of client data are the most vulnerable to this scheme.
3. Business disruption
Once an organization falls victim to phishing schemes, it will be challenging to get back on track and sort out the damage caused by the attack.
If the attack involved malware or malicious programs, it’s almost impossible to instantly get back to the usual rhythm. The damage done to the organization’s technology, networks, and internal systems might take a while to be fixed. Operations may need to be halted to give time for reparation. This interruption in operations may cause a significant drop in production and revenue.
4. Regulatory fines
In a data breach, organizations will be subject to regulatory fines by the appropriate bodies such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).
Regardless if hackers attack the organization’s highest or lowest ranking employee, regulatory bodies will still place fines. Clients trust your organization to keep their information safe and secure. If there’s a data breach, your organization will be held accountable.
5. Intellectual property loss
Apart from monetary losses, the loss of client information, trade secrets, project research, and designs is much more damaging to an organization. A stolen patent means millions of dollars in research and development wasted, especially for IT, pharmaceutical, or defense industries.
While it is more straightforward to recover from monetary losses, recovering sensitive business information is more challenging.
How to Prevent Phishing Attacks
1. Know what a phishing scam looks like
To prevent phishing, you must be aware of what a phishing scam looks like. There are multiple ways fraudsters can try to get your information. And while it may be a bit arduous to study their schemes, it would help you avoid falling victim to their cyberattacks. You will have a considerably reduced chance of being a victim if you learn about them as soon as possible.
2. Use security software
These types of software have special signature detection capabilities incorporated into them to protect networks and systems from security gaps that hackers may use to access your information. The great thing about security software is that they’re constantly updated to boost protection from cyberattacks.
Furthermore, antivirus software checks every file that arrives on your computer via the internet and aids in the prevention of system harm.
3. Always allow mobile software security updates
Reminders for your updates can be annoying sometimes, but they’re there for a reason. Patches and updates are released so that the security system stays up-to-date with the latest cyberattack methods and keeps your system safe.
If you don’t upgrade your apps, browser, and system, you may be vulnerable to phishing attacks based on known flaws that you might have easily avoided.
4. Use multi-factor authentication
Once credentials and other sensitive information have been divulged, it’ll be difficult to keep the hackers out. However, using multi-factor authentication (MFA) is an excellent addition to your system’s security. With an MFA system in place, cybercriminals will need additional information to go through the layers of security and access targeted accounts. Without these, they’re kept out of the system.
Furthermore, when IT administrators start receiving unexpected MFA authorization requests, it will trigger an alert and keep the bad actors away.
5. Update passwords
Anyone who has online accounts should regularly update their passwords. According to a Google report by Harris Poll, around 66% of Americans use the same password for different online accounts. When fraudsters get a hold of this password, they’ll have unlimited access to multiple accounts. You can prevent this by ensuring that you keep your passwords updated regularly.
6. Don’t click the link
To prevent phishing attacks, stop and think before you click. Don’t simply click on any link, even if the email appears to be from a reputable source. You can check the legitimacy of the link by hovering over it and seeing where it will take you.
Some attacks may make it seem like the link is legitimate, but always be vigilant. If you can access the site directly through your search engine rather than clicking on the link, do so.
Safeguarding Your Business
Cyberattacks are becoming more clever, and we can only do so much to prevent them from happening. Preventive tactics like learning about the attacks and allowing security updates are great ways to avoid phishing attacks, but they won’t always be enough.
The best and most practical way of reinforcing your security system is by asking for the help of professionals who can provide you with it. Using an MFA process will greatly boost your organization’s security and prevent future attacks.
If you’re seeking professionals to help you boost your security architecture, Q5id offers professional authentication system solutions to reinforce your organization’s security measures.
Contact us to learn more!
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