Tips to Avoid Being Attacked by Phishing

Phishing prevention refers to a comprehensive set of tools and techniques that can help identify and neutralize phishing attacks in advance. We invite you to discover with us some tips to avoid being attacked by Phishing.

Tips to Avoid Being Attacked by Phishing
Tips to Avoid Being Attacked by Phishing

Phishing prevention includes extensive user education that is designed to spread awareness about phishing, installation of specialized anti-phishing programs, tools and solutions, and introduction of a number of other security measures.

Protecting against email phishing is more of an art than a science. What is certain is that without the proper mechanisms to stop phishing attacks, organizations will always run the risk of incurring serious legal and financial losses.

What is Phishing?

Phishing is a technique used by cybercriminals to steal confidential information such as personal details, bank account details, credit card details, etc.

In many cases, phishing is used simply to spread malware rather than directly requesting user action.

Phishing is a type of cybercrime in which criminals use email, mobile or social channels to send communications designed to steal confidential information, such as personal data, bank account information, credit card information, etc.

The purposes are varied, ranging from identity theft, the fraudulent obtaining of funds, the paralysis of computer systems, to the protection of trade secrets or even confidential information related to national security.

Tips to Avoid Being Attacked by Phishing

Almost all phishing attacks can be divided into two categories:

  • Trick users into transmitting confidential information through spoofed sites.
  • Get the user to install malware through a click of a communication.

In this method, the scammer prompts the user to click a download link, which in turn installs the malware.

How to protect against phishing?

User education and specialized software implementation are the two main ways that companies can develop an effective strategy for protection against phishing.

However, none of these are likely to work in isolation and companies should develop an approach that combines these components for a specific business context in order to better prevent phishing scams.

In terms of a framework, the best strategy on how to protect against phishing would be to organize efforts into two main categories:

1. Prevent phishing emails from reaching users

This is best done using specialized anti-phishing software. There are several options on the market, each offering its own unique set of capabilities, such as handling zero-day vulnerabilities, identifying and neutralizing malware attachments, detecting man-in-the-middle attacks, and more.

Such software is specifically designed to prevent suspicious emails from reaching the target user’s inbox.

2. Safely handle phishing emails that manage to reach users

This is best done by designing rigorous user education programs, which help users not only identify fraudulent emails but also provide specific guidance on how to handle suspicious communications.

Then, efforts should be focused on safely handling emails that manage to breach the security of the software layer. This includes guidelines for identifying suspicious emails based on commonly observed historical patterns.

Also a set of best practices to avoid falling victim to emails that get through.

How can you identify a phishing email?

As described above, email phishing prevention software requires both the use of specialized antiphishing software and extensive user training on how to detect phishing email.

For example, you can deploy cloud software with your current email system and also get Office 365 phishing protection if you use Microsoft.

Each software would implement its proprietary techniques to identify spam, but emails that make it through must be addressed manually. There are certain known patterns that can be observed to prevent phishing. These include:

3. Suspicion of grammar and punctuation

Professional copywriters strive to create emails with well-tested content, subject line, call to action, etc.

Any email that contains bad grammar, punctuation, or displays an illogical content stream is most likely written by inexperienced scammers and is fraudulent.

4. Be suspicious when asked for personal information

Established brands never ask you for confidential information via email. Any message asking to enter or verify personal details or bank/credit card information should be treated as a big red flag.

5. Suspicion of alarming content full of warnings and possible consequences

Hackers can send alarming messages by telling you things like that one of your accounts has been hacked, that the account is expiring, and that you may lose some critical benefits right away, or some other extreme condition that puts you in a panic.

Typically, such content is formatted to create alarm and a sense of urgency with the intention of prompting the user to take immediate action.

6. Suspicion of urgent deadlines

In this pattern, hackers send an email about some pending deadline. For example, a hacker could send a renewal email about an expiring insurance policy.

These emails typically lead users to data collection sites that end up stealing valuable personal or financial information.

7. Suspicion of offers of great financial rewards

This pattern includes emails claiming you won a lottery when you never bought one, or an offer of a big cash discount on something you never bought, big money prizes in a contest you never entered, etc.

The real intention is usually to direct you to a site where scammers can obtain your personal or financial information.

Obviously, these patterns are by no means inclusive and creative hackers are constantly investing in clever techniques to beat you. Learning effectively how to prevent phishing will require a similar commitment on your part.

Best Practices for Phishing Prevention

The patterns presented above provide general guidelines for detecting phishing emails. In addition, there are other best practices that users can use regardless of the presence of specialized software to prevent phishing. These include:

8. Avoid using public networks

Email communications over public networks are often not encrypted. Hackers could use this limitation to detect important information such as username, account passwords, and other financial details.

Of course, hackers can set up completely free access points and lure you into providing sensitive information even without sophisticated data detection technologies.

One of the best practices to prevent phishing when using public networks is to use your mobile’s tethering and hotspot capabilities to work with your 3G / 4G data connection instead of relying on public networks.

9. Beware of shortened links

Shortened links do not display the actual name of a website and can therefore be more easily used to trick the recipient into clicking.

Hackers can use shortened links to redirect you to fake-looking sites and capture sensitive information. Always hover over the short link to see the destination location before clicking on it.

10. Verify the SSL credentials of the destination site

SSL technology guarantees a secure and encrypted transmission of data over the Internet. If you click on an email link and land on a site, always check their SSL credentials.

A very effective technique to prevent phishing is to never give confidential information (passwords, credit card details, answers to security questions, etc.) on sites that do not have a valid SSL certificate installed.

11. Be careful with pop-ups

With Iframe technology, pop-ups can easily capture personal information and send it to a different domain than the one that appears on the browser toolbar.

Established and recognized sites rarely ask to enter sensitive information in pop-ups, and as a general rule, personal information should not be entered in pop-ups, even if they appear on domains with valid SSL and have passed all other checks.

Ataques de spear phishing

Spear phishing is a type of phishing attack that targets specific people to fraudulently search for confidential information, such as financial details, personal information, trade secrets, or military.

The key to keep in mind is that the email is about social engineering. You are trying to convince someone to take an action, either because it is an expected part of your job role or because you are motivated to act based on the urgency of the message context.

For spear phishing to work, the message must be sent imitating someone already known to the target on a personal or professional level, and the content of the message must be timely, logical, and contextual.

While regular phishing attacks can come from any source, spear phishing involves sending emails from someone who already knows the target. Attackers take advantage of this to make a convincing phishing attempt.

So unlike mass phishing attacks that simply send random emails to a large group of people, spear phishing attacks limit their focus to highly specific groups or even individuals.

Given their highly personalized nature, spear phishing attacks are much more difficult to prevent compared to common phishing scams.

There is no fixed script that can be followed to prevent spear phishing, but the following practices almost always work.

12. User education

Awareness and vigilance can help protect you against even the most sophisticated attacks. Outlining the anatomy of a typical spear phishing attack and describing the dangers can make users more vigilant when dealing with emails that involve links and calls to action.

13. Invest in the right technology

Spear phishing involves attackers using targeted users’ emails, sharing files, and surfing the internet to gather information that then leads to a targeted attack.

Effective prevention of these attacks would require monitoring all of these activities and, in many cases, in real time. For this reason, users must invest in the right technology, specifically designed for these multidimensional threat detection and management scenarios.

This is very different from antivirus or other protection against malware tools that only analyze isolated cases of attack.

Phishing is very dangerous and should be taken seriously. With these tips, we are sure that you can protect yourself from most attacks of this type.

Remember that antivirus protection is not 100% effective against these attacks, and that you will have to do your part by identifying and avoiding phishing emails manually.

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