Phishing poses a threat to all businesses and organizations. In fact, nearly a third of data breaches involve some type of phishing attack. Unlike other forms of cybersecurity threats, phishing uses psychological tricks to get people to expose their personal information, and thus it has been historically very difficult to combat.
Fortunately, there are several successful tools, like anti phishing software, and processes that all businesses can use to stay safe from phishing attacks. In this article, we’ll dive into these techniques and discuss how you can apply them to combat phishing at scale.
Phishing is a constantly evolving practice and attackers are continuing to get more sophisticated with their techniques.
Phishing attacks are increasingly successful due to some subtle tactics, which include but are not limited to:
"Phishing attacks become increasingly risky when targeted at executives, managers, and others in the organization with access to sensitive information and/or funds."
Using email spoofing or business email compromise, an attacker impersonates the head of an organization or department to coerce employees into sharing sensitive information.
This often happens at particularly large organizations where a lower-level employee is less likely to question their CEO or head of department such as the CFO or HR. For example, the attacker may instruct employees to initiate a wire transfer to an external organization.
A subset of spear phishing, where the attacker goes after high-value targets, like celebrities or politicians. In general, the conversion on this is lower since most so-called whales have security teams and processes in place for this specific type of spear phishing prevention.
However, the implications are much greater when they do happen, as such high-profile people can often influence politics, markets, and more. The infamous 2016 leak of Hillary Clinton’s campaign emails was the direct result of a whaling attack.
This nearly undetectable scam involves attackers taking over ongoing email threads between the business and the vendor. Once they've subtly inserted themselves into the conversation, they can exploit the well-established relationship to attack the organization.
Attackers will impersonate a brand, internal employee, or trusted external partner or vendor to gain and use inappropriate access to internal accounts to observe payment and deal processes.
Using this information, they send fraudulent invoices that closely or exactly mimic real invoices through a combination of spoofed and compromised vendor accounts.
Many companies want to implement the “best” technique or phishing detection solution, but a successful approach to anti-phishing requires a comprehensive approach that may combine several different layers. Most companies will have to combine incident responders, intelligent decisions, and machine learning for true phishing protection.
Here we’ll take a look at the five most important techniques for combating and preventing phishing attacks:
The least technical, but still very effective, approach to phishing protection is training employees. When an email threat evades the phishing detection solution, educating your employees on how phishing works and what to look out for in order to avoid being compromised adds a solid layer of phishing protection. For instance, if a suspicious email has an outbound link in it, employees should learn to check the domain of the URL and verify if it is correctly associated with the sender.
However, phishing is an evolving threat, and thus simple awareness of it is not sufficient because phishing preys on human error and weakness, using social engineering, and nobody is immune from a well-crafted attack - even IT professionals.
But companies need to continue to educate their employees to keep up with these threats. For example, simulation training allows a company to run fake phishing campaigns to teach employees of different attack techniques and ensure they’re able to flag and report them to the anti phishing software.
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Traditional URL scanning and malware detection systems will scan the source code of pages to determine if the page signatures match that of known attacks or if the pages try to automatically download malicious code. The issue with this is that the analysis is static and easy for attackers to work around by providing polymorphic versions of the same landing page so that the different variant signatures won’t match the known attack forms.
To really combat the threat, organizations need to utilize more advanced techniques such as deep learning and visual learning so that the system can determine if a URL or landing page looks suspicious and dynamically evolve as attackers adjust their approaches.
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Business email compromise (BEC) is particularly difficult to detect using traditional techniques like gateway security tools and domain blocklists. Rather than simply trying to prevent unwanted traffic from entering a network, organizations need to start at the mailbox level to detect patterns in emails and communication to learn what good and bad emails look like in order to flag suspicious behavior.
Know who is sending what to your inbox. IRONSCALES works from the inside out by building unique profiles for each employee based on communication history, content analysis (NLP), internal and external relationship profiles, and other metadata to detect anomalies.
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Attackers continue to get more advanced in their phishing approaches, and thus, a static phishing prevention system is insufficient to protect from evolving threats.
Decentralized threat intelligence means leveraging the power of security teams around the world to help protect against new and evolving attacks. In the same way that platforms such as Airbnb and Waze consolidate and distribute information among users.
That means being able to anticipate and identify attacks that happen anywhere in the world before they compromise your company's mailboxes.
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IT departments need to have a plan in place on how to handle and respond to phishing attempts. This is where a phishing incident response comes into play. When an employee or software application reports a phishing attempt, the IT department should have an explicit plan on how to triage, analyze, and respond to it. This could involve action items such as adjusting spam filters and notifying employees.
However, manual configuration and deletions are not sufficient to remediate attacks because the average time it takes an employee to click a phishing email is 82 seconds, according to the Verizon DBIR report. Incident response systems need to be able to automatically detect and respond to morphing phishing attacks in real-time.
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With phishing getting more advanced by the day, businesses need a way to stay ahead of the attackers to avoid compromising their information security. Anti-phishing software can be an extremely valuable asset to aid in detecting and removing phishing attempts. IRONSCALES is a self-learning email security platform that provides all the tools necessary to keep a business safe from evolving phishing threats.
Try a free trial of IRONSCALES to see how you can keep your business safe from phishing.
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