Phishing is a staple in the toolset of hackers because it provides the highest return on their efforts in gaining unauthorised entry to a system. Scams grow in sophistication every year and are designed to dangle increasingly enticing bait in front of employee’s noses. The attacks almost always look like the real deal, and the employee is often oblivious to the fact that they have just become the biggest threat to the security of the system.
Education is vital to ensuring employees are aware of what phishing is, how it works, and how they can avoid playing a part in the downfall of the company for which they work. Yes, phishing is that serious. Once a cyber-attack takes place, the repercussions often lead to a business closing its doors for good.
How a Phishing Attack Works
Phishing sounds like fishing for an excellent reason. It looks like a legitimate message from a well-known company. It may even be cleverly designed to appear that it has come straight from head-office. The message is the bait, and it’s designed to lure the reader into taking some action.
Employees take the bait by clicking on the link and entering personal information into what appears to be an official-looking website. Unfortunately, what they have done in reality is to provide their login details to a hacker, who can now use this information to gain unauthorised access.
The above is just one of the many ways a phishing attack can achieve its intended purpose. Another type of phishing attack has the message recipient unwittingly install malware onto the system which then allows the perpetrator to gain entry to the network while easily bypassing all security systems. The hackers are now free to log on and use the system for their own purposes.
Avoiding the Dangers of Phishing Attacks
The best and most cost-effective measure against phishing attacks is to educate employees about how they work, and how to identify them. Teach employees to be wary of opening documents in Word for editing as these can contain malware. If there is any doubt about the origin of the document it’s a simple matter to pick up the phone and check with head office or administration.
Even official looking emails have signs which give them away. Hovering over a link will show its true destination, or the email may contain a generic salutation, rather than the employee’s name. Employees should also be made aware that there is never a valid reason for them to send their login details over an email, text message, or via a phone call.
Phishing attacks are the most effective means for a hacker to gain entry to an IT system, and successful attacks are always difficult, if not impossible from which to recover. Security measures are essential weapons in the war on cybercrime, but so too is continuing education for all employees who possess access credentials. A vigilant employee is the first, and best line of defence against the threat of phishing.