Phishing continues to be one of the most common types of cyberattacks against businesses today. It is designed to sidestep cybersecurity measures by targeting the human element. This is why the best defense against phishing is educating yourself and your staff on how to recognize phishing attempts. Learning to identify phishing attempts is especially vital as, according to the SlashNext State of Phishing Report 2023, between December 2022 and October 2023, the frequency of malicious phishing messages has increased by 1,265%.
What is a phishing attempt?
Phishing is a type of social engineering attack, whereby cybercriminals use psychological manipulation tactics to steal sensitive information such as login credentials and financial details. Attackers will often impersonate legitimate companies or entities to deceive victims into opening fraudulent emails or messages. Clicking on these messages could lead to malware infections, ransomware attacks, or the exposure of sensitive information. Successful phishing attempts can cost organizations through data loss, disruption, reputation damage, and potential fines.
Common indicators of a phishing attempt
The best way to defend against phishing scams is to learn how to identify them. Watch out for the following signs:
Spelling and grammatical errors
One of the most apparent signs of phishing attempts is the presence of numerous spelling errors and unusual grammar usage. While the occasional typo is common, an email riddled with misspellings should raise suspicion.
Phishing emails are unsolicited and often claim that the recipient has won a prize or can benefit from discounts. If you did not opt in to receive such offers or subscriptions, there’s a high likelihood that the email is fraudulent.
Phishing emails often try to create a sense of urgency using capitalization, exclamation points, and commanding language in their emails. Legitimate business communications typically employ more diplomatic and positive (or neutral) language. If a message seems overly urgent or threatening, exercise caution.
Some phishing emails may lack detailed information, hoping to capitalize on their ambiguity. Be cautious if you receive a vague email with minimal content and an unexpected attachment.
If an unsolicited email contains an attachment, don’t open it right away. Examine the file extensions and scan attachments with common malware-associated extensions such as .zip, .exe, or .scr.
Phishing emails often impersonate legitimate organizations by mimicking email layouts, logos, and website designs. Small variations can still reveal phishing attempts, even though cybercriminals are becoming more skilled at imitating legitimate messages. Check for inconsistencies in color scheme, font, or logos in comparison to previous correspondence with legitimate organizations.
Requests for classified information
Sophisticated phishing attempts may direct recipients to fake landing pages where they are prompted to enter login credentials or make payments to resolve supposed issues.
If you receive an email requesting personal information or payments that’s unexpected, visit the organization’s website directly by typing in the URL rather than clicking on links to ensure you are not falling into a phishing trap.
In addition to learning how to recognize phishing attempts, here are some tips on preventing you and your employees from falling victim to them:
- Be careful sharing your personal information, especially if the email is unsolicited.
- If you think an email may be legitimate but are still unsure, try contacting the sending organization before disclosing any information or opening any attachments.
- Pay attention to official notices from your organization or trusted information outlets about ongoing phishing scams.
- Never share passwords in response to unsolicited requests.
- Review your account statements for any suspicious spending.
Phishing techniques are constantly evolving, which is why it’s so crucial to always be critical of every email you and your employees receive. Remember, the best defenses against phishing are knowledge, vigilance, and caution.
Learn more about phishing and other cyberthreats by contacting PCA Technology Group today to reach an IT professional.