Think Before You Click: Phishing Awareness, Education, and Prevention

Working remotely may sound like a luxury – but it also can present its fair share of risks.  When it comes to cybersecurity, threats are increasing as more services are becoming digitalized. Thankfully, these hazards can be avoided when properly addressed.

As the cybersecurity landscape has grown more complex, phishing attacks have become far more sophisticated. To combat this issue, companies need to take a more proactive approach to prevent security breaches and determine the best ways to resume operations when they occur.

What exactly is phishing?

Phishing is a type of social engineering where an attacker sends a fraudulent message designed to trick a person into revealing sensitive information to them or to deploy malicious software on the victim’s infrastructure – like ransomware. These schemes can be deployed in the form of email attachments, or links to a malicious website. 

Attacks can facilitate access to your online accounts and personal data, obtain permissions to modify and compromise connected systems, and in some cases — hijack entire computer networks until a ransom fee is paid. To protect themselves against such threats, it is important that a company first educate itself on the various forms in which they may appear.

Email phishing As the most common form of phishing, this type of attack uses tactics like phony hyperlinks to lure email recipients into sharing their personal information. In these types of attacks, hackers disguise themselves as large account providers like Google, or even a coworker.

Smishing People are particularly vulnerable to smishing scams, as text messages come across as more personal. A combination of the words “SMS” and “phishing,” smishing involves sending text messages disguised as trustworthy communications from businesses like banks or trusted government agencies. 

Spear phishing While most phishing attacks cover larger ground, spear phishing targets specific individuals by exploiting information gathered through research into their jobs and social lives. These attacks are highly customized – making them extremely effective.

Whaling Attack A whaling attack is a type of spear-phishing attack directed at high-level executives. Attackers in these cases masquerade as legitimate entities and encourage a victim to share highly sensitive information or send a wire transfer to a fraudulent account.

Safeguard Your Organization Against Phishing

While your organization’s spam folder might keep some phishing emails out of your employees’ inboxes, scammers can often outsmart basic security features. Still, an end-user can help protect against these events in the following ways:

·   Protecting their computer with security software. Setting the software to update automatically helps protect your organization from malicious players. Keep in mind that antivirus alone is not enough to defend against viruses – but it is an essential first step.

·   Managing their email accounts with multi-factor authentication. Most email systems offer extra security by requiring two or more credentials to log into an end-user’s account. The extra credentials can include a personalized passcode, verification by text, a scan or fingerprint.

·   Safeguarding their data by backing it up. Backing up data on an end-user’s computer and saving it onto an external hard drive or the cloud prevents every organization’s worst nightmare: permanent data loss. 

Recognizing Phishing Campaigns

To keep their computers safe, end-users can educate themselves on how to recognize a phishing attack – before it’s too late. By implementing a few best practices, you can be sure your business won’t fall victim to a malicious campaign. As simple as the below steps may seem, they can be highly effective in protecting your ecosystem.

·   Always review the email sender. If they are unrecognizable, it is perfectly acceptable to question them. Once you determine that you’ve received a phishing email, you can send it to your spam folder or forward it to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at

·   When in doubt, hover your cursor over hyperlinks in email messages prior to clicking on them.  Doing so will display the hyperlink’s full URL, which end-users can use to confirm whether the link is legitimate.  

·   Prior to entering login credentials on any website, confirm that the URL in the address bar is correct, and ensure that the connection is secure. To confirm that your connection is secure, look for a green lock near the address bar, and confirm that the website address begins with https:// — and not http://.

Leverage Phishing Simulation Techniques

A gap in end-user training and awareness might explain why phishing remains the most likely threat to cause a full-blown data breach. According to Verizon's 2021 DBIR, around 25% of all data breaches involve phishing and another 85% contain a human element.

To help combat this issue, organizations can use phishing simulation protocols. As part of user security awareness, phishing simulation training provides employees with the information they need to understand the dangers of social engineering and detect potential attacks. These training solutions show employees the types of attacks to look out for, how to recognize subtle red flags, and how to report suspicious emails to your IT department.

Protecting Your Organization Before It’s Too Late

Thinking before you click may sound simple, but phishing campaigns are highly advanced; hackers work hard to mimic a user's everyday experience. Becoming well aware of cybercriminals’ tactics enables end-users to recognize phishing campaigns, and what to do when they occur. 

Although phishing campaigns can be extremely advanced — with the right tools and education — an organization can outsmart them before it’s too late. Our team at Riverstrong can help you get there and protect against these very risks. Connect with us today!


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