How to Prevent Phishing Attacks (and Protect Your Business Reputation)

Friday, May 14, 2021

While the pandemic has greatly increased public awareness of phishing and cybersecurity, it's also increased their financial and reputational consequences.

Article 8 Minutes
How to Prevent Phishing Attacks (and Protect Your Business Reputation)
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Email is an essential part of the business process of any company, whether you want to interact with your employees, customers or potential clients.

Your email is a professional way to present your brand's products and services, notify customers of offers and deals and generate leads. It can also contain sensitive information such as bank account details, credit card numbers and business dealings.

Email is the first target for cybercriminals to gain access to your company's sensitive data through phishing attacks and spam.

Phishing campaigns are becoming more sophisticated and widespread. Such attacks are one of the main causes of security incidents and data breaches. These cyberattacks use disguised emails as a tool to trick recipients not to suppose that the messages are dangerous to them. For example, the message might contain a request related to their bank details imposing urgency.

How can phishing affect your business?

After being victims of phishing attacks, businesses around the world suffer huge monetary losses, reputation and trust. Even big companies like Facebook and Google with flawless security patches were attacked by cybercriminals and lost millions of dollars.

The motive for such scams isn’t only the theft of money, but also something even more important - information.

Let's find out what the dire business consequences of such attacks are.

1. Damage reputation

At the core of your business is trust between you and your customers. They trust you with their information. But when phishing occurs, all of your data, including your brand and customer data, is exposed. Hence, it undermines their confidence in your company. Consequently, your brand value goes down - as does your income.

2. Penalties provided by law

Regulators can impose hefty monetary penalties for phishing attacks that put your customers and employees' data at risk if they violate PCI or HIPAA standards.

In such cases, organizations will incur millions in compensation costs to customers and employees whose data has been stolen.

3. Loss of clients

Failure to comply with data privacy significantly affects consumers and makes them nervous. They start looking for other products or services that they consider safer. Thus, in addition to the loss of money, the victim organization loses a large number of clients.

Now they must start building this trust again, which has to be even tighter than before. In the same way, it affects the trust of investors, reducing the value of a company. In 2018, when Facebook faced a data breach, its appraised value dropped by $36 billion.

4. Loss of intellectual property

There’s one more thing - the loss of intellectual property is also disastrous.

Online scams and phishing attacks include many trade secrets, customer lists, valuable research, technology analytics, patents or designs. If such confidential information falls into the wrong hands, it can seriously affect the company in many ways.

Ways to prevent phishing attacks

There are several options for preventing phishing attacks and other online threats.

One big part of protecting a company from phishing attacks is employee training. These training have to be hands-on and active. Organizations shouldn’t overlook the fact that in person comprehensive and interactive training will have a bigger impact and results in terms of protection and prevention.

For protection, the company requires a strong Training, Education and Awareness (TEA) program. Phishing threats can be combated using a variety of technical approaches. Certain products send test phishing emails to corporate employees and provide security leaders with metrics on the effectiveness of their anti-phishing training programs.

To decide whether an email is fraudulent, another technical solution is to use a heuristics product. These strategies have a mixed success rate. Many of the obvious scams are filtered out, but the more cleverly crafted emails aren’t.

Here are 5 ways to create a security awareness program and stick by it.

  1. Executive awareness and participation: Hands on involvement from managers and leadership
  2. Clear striking message and regular frequency: Don’t mention only the negatives. Create messages and slogans that leave an impression and encourage an awareness culture within the organization. It’s also not a one-time thing - regularly inform and update employees.
  3. MSSP-like bulletins: If you use a Managed Security Services Provider, you’ve probably received daily updates on threat landscapes. Include this type of information in your newsletters. If you can arouse general interest among various groups of people, they’ll pay more attention to the security awareness items on your agenda – and you must have a clear agenda.
  4. Phishing training: Demonstrate the telltale signs of a phishing email to your customers. Describe the tactics of spear and whale phishing. Include reports of how the Lockheed breach began with a single email to an HR employee and ended with a Chinese version of cutting-edge fighter aircraft worth an estimated $400 billion in designs.
  5. Annual training: You can hold a security briefing as part of the onboarding process for new hires, as well as a mandatory annual security course for all employees. Several vendors, such as Wombat, offer highly engaging online multimedia presentations of security awareness training.

Software and policies

Email security software and spam filters

One way to protect your email is to use decent email protection software. In fact, your company's first line of defense should be email security software. It can protect your email from hackers, viruses and spam while allowing you to run your business without fear.

You can use email phishing protection software to help protect your organization's email. For example, you can protect your email, data and users by stopping threats like ransomware and spear-phishing, as well as massive threats including spam and malware.

It also prevents phishing scams by protecting you from fake emails with a combination of DMARC, DKIM and SPF authentication, similar domain analysis. You can use the SPF checker tool, DMARC record generator and DKIM record generator. The software quarantines suspicious messages, blocks and tags them with a warning.

Many spam filters can be set up to detect and block emails from suspicious sources until they enter employees' inboxes. Two-factor authentication can be used to prevent hackers from gaining access to a user's account if their passwords have been compromised. Users can use browser add-ons and plugins to prevent them from clicking on malicious links.

Preventing potential attackers from accessing the corporate directory, which contains names, email addresses and other personal employee information is an essential move for companies to take. It’s recommended that mobile security software be installed on user devices that checks apps and prevents users from accessing corporate networks if they have privacy-invading apps.

User monitoring

Another step is to prevent mobile users from accessing phishing sites even though they’re connected to a public Wi-Fi network. Since email filtering is insufficient, these protections must be implemented at the network level. Phishing and spear phishing attacks can be sent via corporate email, a user's personal email account that is linked to their mobile device, or via SMS messages to the user. To avoid access to phishing sites, mobile users can use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to connect to websites that provide protected Domain Name System (DNS) and blacklisting.

Users are also the best channel for detecting, reporting and defending against phishing attacks. Enterprises can put in systems where users can quickly and easily report phishing attacks, have them routed to IT, screened and entered into a system where IT can quickly and easily add them to blacklists.

Explaining and sharing information

Sharing should be part of safety practice everywhere. This may seem counterintuitive, but the best way to defend against attack is to explain how all the defenses work.

Algorithms in cryptography are well-known and have been peer and public checked, attacked, and improved. CIOs should take inspiration from this and act in a similar way; they should discuss protection procedures openly, subject them to public and peer review, perform public post-mortem incident analyses, report the findings and tweak the methods as required.

SSL certificate

Secure all traffic to and from your website with an SSL Certificate. This prevents eavesdropping on the data sent between your web server and your customers' browsers.

Keep your software up to date to ensure that you’re safe. To protect against vulnerabilities and security problems, you and your providers should install all of the new patches and updates. This includes website hosting, shopping cart apps, websites and content management software.

Secure payment page

Use a payment page that’s securely hosted. This is the best way to protect your customers' credit card information. Use a payment gateway service that has independent auditors' PCI DSS and ISO 27001 certifications. This means that the payment information of the customers is kept safe at all times.

Final thoughts

Emails are a professional way to interact with clients and employees and may contain certain information that you never want to lose. But don't worry - there is a way to protect them. You can’t control cybercriminals, but you can control phishing attacks, spam, malware and other online threats. Use the aforementioned email security tool and tips to stay protected.

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Araz Guidanian

Araz is part of the content team at Easydmarc, a phishing protection and email security software company. She writes content on Cybersecurity and Domain Protection.

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