Small businesses in Australia collectively lost $4.9 million from phishing attacks in 2019. Phishing is a type of cyber attack that involves attackers using fraudulent emails and messages to steal your sensitive information. These attacks cause devastating financial losses to small businesses. Australian business owners must adopt effective policies and practices to prevent falling victim to such attacks. You need to teach your employees about cybersecurity and implement strict policies to ensure they don’t fall victim to phishing attacks.
What are Phishing Attacks and how can they be harmful?
Phishing is a type of social engineering attack that involves tricking people into giving sensitive information, like online banking details or credit card numbers. Phishing attacks can happen over emails, text messages, phone calls, or other mediums. The attacker pretends to be a legitimate entity, like the representative of a bank.
The attacker will use different tactics to convince the victim to surrender sensitive information. This could include creating urgency, offering rewards, or threatening consequences for non-compliance. For example, an attacker may claim that you’ll lose access to your credit card unless you supply your card details to them.
Phishing attacks can result in potentially large losses. You can prevent falling victim to phishing attacks by taking the following precautions:
- Don’t instinctively trust unsolicited communications
- Check the URL of the websites you visit
- Use strong and unique passwords for your online accounts.
These precautions work for individuals. But Australian business owners can adopt more advanced measures to protect their companies against phishing attacks.
Attack Vectors for Phishing Attack
Phishing attackers employ different attack vectors to target the employees of SMEs, including the following.
Email spoofing involves sending legitimate-looking emails from trusted sources, like banks, or companies. But, these emails will have a forged address. In these emails, you’ll likely find links to fake login pages that’ll steal your information. These are the most phishing attacks.
Attackers will gather information about an individual to tailor a phishing attack against them. For example, the attacker could forge an email from your company’s IT department requesting you to reset your password. The attacker will likely gather detailed information about your company’s IT department to appear convincing.
The attacker will send you emails that contain malicious attachments like malware and viruses. Your computer will get infected after you open the attachments. And the attackers will steal your data.
Social media phishing
Social media phishing is the social media version of email spear phishing. The attacker will create fake social media profiles from trusted sources, like your friends and colleagues. Then, they’ll send you messages or requests for sensitive information from these profiles.
Phone phishing involves the attacker calling you and pretending to represent a trusted organisation, like a bank or government agency. And they’ll request your personal information, like credit card numbers or login details.
Safeguards against Phishing Attacks
Australian businesses can use the following precautions to protect their companies from phishing attacks.
The first step to combating the threat of phishing is to educate your employees about it. You should teach them what phishing is, how to identify phishing attempts, and how to respond to phishing attacks. You can do this by providing regular training and reminders to teach your employees the risks of phishing and how to protect themselves from it.
For example, teach your employees that phishing emails and messages often have grammatical and spelling mistakes. Authentic emails and messages from legitimate sources won’t contain such mistakes.
Inform your employees that legitimate authorities don’t request personal information via email or text messages. If anyone receives such emails or message requests, they should be suspicious.
Email and Spam Filtering
Implementing email and spam filters is one of the best ways for SMBs to reduce phishing attacks. The filters will automatically identify and quarantine malicious emails. These filters add an additional layer of protection for employees by preventing malicious emails from even reaching your employees’ inboxes.
Since these tools detect and block phishing emails before reaching your employees’ inboxes, it removes the risk of them potentially falling victim. Also, email and spam filters can give you regular reports on phishing attacks against your company. Use this information to recognise trends and improve your security over time.
Updated Antivirus and Anti Malware (aka Endpoint Detection & Recovery or EDR)
Installing and regularly updating your devices’ antivirus and malware is also a great defence against phishing attacks. All your employees should regularly update their antivirus and anti-malware software. Doing so protects your company against phishing and other malware attacks.
This software detect and remove the malicious software and attachments present in phishing emails. You can also configure your antivirus and anti-malware to regularly scan your computer systems and networks to remove malware that’s already been installed.
High-quality and updated antivirus and anti-malware software are vital for an overall cybersecurity strategy. Updated antivirus and anti-malware software will yield great long-term benefits in improving your company’s cyber infrastructure.
IT Governance and Policies
Technology alone isn’t enough to protect your business. You must also implement effective IT governance and policies to decrease the chances of phishing attacks. For instance, your employees should know what to do when they receive suspicious emails. They should immediately forward all suspicious emails to the IT department for review.
Here’s an example of how a company would professionally deal with a phishing attack.
- A company’s financial account manager receives a legitimate-looking email from someone claiming to be the company’s CEO.
- The email, with multiple spelling and grammatical mistakes, requests the financial account manager to transfer $100,000 to an unknown bank account.
- Since the financial account manager was trained to identify phishing attempts, they suspect the email is a forgery. They forward the email to the company’s IT department.
- The IT department correctly identifies the email as attempted phishing and informs the financial account manager to ignore the email and block the sender.
- Thanks to the company’s IT training and policies, the financial account manager recognised the phishing attempt. The company avoided potentially losing $100,000.
Your business should have similar policies and proactive education to teach employees how to behave. Without such training and policies, your employees could fall victim to phishing attempts.
Phishing attacks are simple but dangerous. They can potentially cost your company massive amounts of money. Protect your company by implementing good cyber security policies and educating employees about the dangers of phishing attacks.
Protecting against phishing attacks isn’t easy. But a managed service provider (MSP) can make it easier for you. You can contact PowerbITs today for a free consultation to protect your business against phishing attacks.