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Fundamentals for Improving Phishing Defenses

September 15th, 2021

Ransomware and data breaches grab the headlines, but phishing – one of the oldest pain points in cybersecurity – continues to quietly wreak havoc, and is as big of a threat as it has ever been.

Phishing is a cybercrime in which a target is contacted by email, telephone or text message by someone posing as a legitimate institution to lure individuals into providing sensitive data such as personally identifiable information, banking and credit card details, and passwords. The information is then used to access important accounts and can result in identity theft and financial loss.

In fact, 43 percent of cyberattacks last year featured phishing or pre-texting, while 74 percent of US organizations experienced a successful phishing attack. That means that phishing is among the most dangerous threats to cybersecurity health, and the need for proper anti-phishing hygiene and best practices is crucial. Here are a few best practices and tips for dealing with phishing threats.

Know the Red Flags

Phishes are masters of making their content and interactions appealing. From content design to language, it can be difficult to discern whether content is genuine or a potential threat, which is why it is so important to know the red flags. Awkward and unusual formatting, overly explicit call outs to click a hyperlink or open an attachment, and subject lines that create a sense of urgency are all hallmarks that the content you received could be potentially from phish and indicate that it should be handled with caution.

Verify the Source

Phishing content comes in a variety of ways, however, many phishes will try to impersonate someone you may already know -- such as a colleague, service provider or friend -- as a way to trick you into believing their malicious content is actually trustworthy. Don’t fall for it. If you sense any red flags that something may be out of place or unusual, reach out directly to the individual to confirm whether the content is authentic and safe. If not, break-off communication immediately and flag the incident through the proper channels.

Be Aware of Vishing and Other Phishing Offshoots

As greater awareness has been spread about phishing, bad actors have begun to diversify their phishing efforts beyond traditional email. For example, voice phishing – or vishing – has become a primary alternative for criminals looking to gain sensitive information from unsuspecting individuals. Similar to conventional phishing, vishing is typically executed by individuals posing as a legitimate organization – such as a healthcare provider or insurer – and asking for sensitive information. It is imperative that individuals be wary of any sort of communication that asks for personal information whether it be via email, phone or chat – especially if the communication is unexpected. If anything seems suspicious, break-off the interaction immediately and contact the company directly to confirm the veracity of the communications.

Phishing may be “one of the oldest tricks in the book,” but it is still effective. It may be hard to spot when you are in the midst of a phishing attempt, but by exercising caution and deploying these fundamentals, individuals and organizations can help mitigate the chances of falling victim to a phishing attack.

Do your part - #BeCyberSmart

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