How to prevent phishing emails at work

There are more cyber threats than ever for small and medium-sized enterprises to consider, and it can be difficult to account for all of them. Of all the various malware strains, exploitable vulnerabilities and attack vectors to plan for, perhaps none is as pernicious as phishing.

Due to their relative ease of use and the fact that they often prey upon the most vulnerable targets, phishing attacks continue to be widely used by cyber criminals. According to a 2019 Verizon study, phishing attacks are the leading cause of data breaches worldwide.

Looking across the 2020 cyber threat landscape, there no signs of phishing attacks abating anytime soon. SMEs must take actionable steps to protect their businesses against these threats and minimise the risk of a costly data breach.

How do phishing email attacks work?

Although phishing attacks can vary in terms of their sophistication, the underlying idea remains the same: Send an unsuspecting recipient an email – or another form of digital communication, such as a text message – that contains malware. The malware could be an attachment that runs an executable file when downloaded, for instance. In other cases, the email will have a link taking the user to a compromised website running malware.

Phishing emails masquerade as legitimate communications, sometimes addressing the victim directly by their first name. More sophisticated tactics, known as spear phishing, use social engineering to add even more context and nuance to the phishing email to trick targets.

Cyber criminals use phishing emails to victimise both consumers and businesses. While the greatest risk facing individuals is identify theft, businesses stand to lose quite a bit through data theft and leakage, threat remediation costs, potential regulatory penalties and damage to brand reputation.

In short, do not take phishing emails lightly. Have a detailed strategy in place to defend against these harmful cyber attacks.

Phishing attacks target employees and users who don't recognise the tell-tale signs of malicious activity.Phishing attacks target employees and users who don't recognise the tell-tale signs of malicious activity.

Provide employees with cyber security training

Phishing attacks prey on individuals who lack the tech-savviness or cyber security awareness to recognise malicious emails. According to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, one-third of all data breaches in Australia result from compromised user credentials. Employees can serve as the first line of defence against cyber threats, but too often they prove to be liabilities.

SMEs can change all of that by providing cyber security training sessions to raise awareness and teach staff members how to spot phishing emails. Recognising suspicious activity that might indicate malicious behaviour not only helps to prevent data breaches, but it can also mitigate the impact of an intrusion that's already happened. Data breaches can go months without being noticed – and all the while, malware sits on the system, exfiltrating data. The quicker you can respond, the less fallout you will have to incur.

Implement anti-phishing defences

Most businesses have antivirus software and other cyber security measures in place, but those tools may not prevent phishing emails from reaching your inbox. Dedicated anti-phishing software can recognise the tell-tale signs of a phishing attack and stop malicious or suspicious emails dead in their tracks.

There are all kinds of specialised anti-phishing solutions available, from tools that focus on malware attachments to more complex varieties capable of detecting spearphishing emails. Such safeguards can be a lifesaver if employees have a lapse in judgment and click on a suspicious email.

Take the proper precautions to protect your business against phishing emails.Take the proper precautions to protect your business against phishing emails.

Run email threat analysis

One of the biggest issues facing the cyber security community today is the fact that, in many cases, people and businesses don't fully realise how vulnerable they are to a data breach. They might think that since they have never fallen victim to a cyber attack, they're well-protected. In all likelihood, that could not be further from the truth. From phishing emails to zero-day exploits, there are so many threats lurking in cyberspace to address, and most organisations do not have the tools needed to take them all head-on.

Conducting email threat analysis can bring to light any gaps in your cyber security posture as it pertains to phishing attacks and similar threats across your communication channels. A comprehensive audit can show you potential points of intrusion and data breach risks that you haven't even considered. For example, your internal systems may be adequately secured, but what about those of the business partners, vendors and suppliers who also have access to your network?

There's no such thing as being over-prepared when it comes to cyber security. Biztech's email threat analysis services will shine a light on the most glaring holes in your data security strategy, provide consultation on the best ways to fill those gaps and educate your staff on the latest best practices. Contact our team today to find out more about our leading cyber security services.