Contact us


Phishing attacks: How to recognize and protect your organization from phishing scams

Phishing attacks are becoming more sophisticated and frequent, making them a significant threat to organizations of all sizes. These scams are designed to trick individuals into giving away sensitive information like login credentials, credit card information, or other personal data.

In this blog, we will explore what phishing is and why it's dangerous. We will also break down the most common types of phishing attacks and techniques used by scammers. Additionally, we'll provide an example of a phishing email and offer tips on how to recognize and protect yourself against these scams. We'll discuss best practices for preventing phishing attacks, including user awareness training, implementing MFA, and conducting periodic phishing attack tests. Read on to learn how you can keep your organization safe from phishing scams.

Understanding phishing attacks

As technology evolves, so do the methods used to exploit it. One such method is phishing, which can wreak havoc on both individuals and organizations. In a phishing scam, perpetrators trick unsuspecting victims into divulging sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and bank account details. Phishing attacks come in various forms, including spear phishing, smishing, vishing, and whaling. Identifying these scams isn't always easy, but with the right tools and training, you can protect yourself and your organization from their harmful effects. In the following sections, we'll explore the different types of phishing attacks and provide some best practices for staying safe in today's digital landscape.

What is phishing?

Phishing is a type of cyber attack that has become increasingly prevalent in recent years. Attackers use deceptive tactics to trick people into revealing sensitive information, such as login credentials and credit card numbers. The goal is to gain access to valuable data and use it for financial gain or other malicious purposes. Phishing attacks are particularly dangerous because they can be difficult to detect, and even a single successful attack can have far-reaching consequences. To protect your organization from phishing scams, it's essential to educate employees about the warning signs of a phishing attack and implement effective security measures such as firewalls, anti-virus software, and multi-factor authentication.

Why are phishing attacks dangerous?

Phishing attacks pose a significant threat to individuals and organizations alike. Attackers use social engineering tactics to trick victims into revealing sensitive information or clicking on malicious links, leading to data breaches, financial losses, and reputational damage. As phishing attacks become increasingly sophisticated and difficult to detect, it is crucial for individuals and organizations to stay vigilant and implement effective security measures. By implementing security training programs, using anti-phishing software, and regularly updating their security protocols, organizations can protect themselves from the potentially devastating consequences of a successful phishing attack. Similarly, individuals can protect themselves by being cautious of suspicious emails or messages and verifying the sender's identity before taking any action.

Common types of phishing attacks

With evolving cyber threats, it is essential to understand the different types of phishing attacks that can harm individuals and organizations and take appropriate prevention measures. By learning about these different attack techniques and implementing effective countermeasures, individuals and organizations can better safeguard themselves against these threats.

Email phishing

Email phishing is one of the most common types of cyber attacks that individuals and organizations face today. Attackers use fraudulent emails to trick recipients into divulging sensitive information or clicking on malicious links. These emails often appear to be from legitimate sources, such as banks or government agencies, making them difficult to distinguish from actual emails. Clicking on a link in a phishing email can lead to various consequences, including installing malware on the recipient's computer or redirecting them to fake websites to steal login credentials. To protect against email phishing, it is crucial to verify the sender's email address and avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown sources. Organizations should also consider implementing security training programs to educate employees about recognizing and avoiding phishing scams.

Spear phishing

Spear phishing is a highly targeted form of phishing that can be difficult to detect. Attackers take their time gathering information about their targets, such as their personal and professional interests, online activity, and job responsibilities. This information is helpful for crafting convincing messages that appear to come from trusted sources. These messages can include urgent requests for sensitive information or links to seemingly legitimate websites with the sole purpose of stealing login credentials.

Whaling and CEO fraud

High-level executives are particularly vulnerable to phishing attacks, and Whaling and CEO Fraud are two types of attacks that target them specifically. These attacks are often successful because attackers use social engineering tactics to personalize the email content to appear legitimate. Whaling scams usually involve impersonating a senior executive to gain access to sensitive information or funds, while CEO fraud involves impersonating the CEO or other top-level executives to trick employees into making unauthorized transactions.

Clone phishing

One of the more insidious techniques attackers use is clone phishing. In this type of attack, hackers create a replica of a legitimate email and modify it to include malicious links or attachments. Clone phishing can be challenging to detect because the email appears genuine at first glance. Attackers may gather personal information about their target through social engineering tactics to make the email seem more convincing. To stay protected, it's crucial to scrutinize emails closely, especially those requesting sensitive data or containing unexpected links or attachments.

Angler phishing

Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives, providing a platform to connect and communicate with people from all over the world. However, this increased connectivity has also brought an increased risk of phishing attacks. Angler phishing is a sophisticated type of phishing attack that targets users through social media platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. Attackers create fake social media profiles and use them to trick victims into clicking on malicious links or downloading malware.

Other techniques used in phishing attacks

When it comes to phishing scams, attackers use a wide range of techniques beyond email-based attacks. One such method is vishing, where scammers use voice recordings to trick victims into revealing sensitive information over the phone. SMS phishing or smishing is a tactic employed by fraudsters who send phishing text messages on mobile phones, often containing malicious links or attachments. Page hijacking and calendar phishing are additional ways attackers can redirect users to fake websites or scam them through fake calendar invites. By educating employees on how to identify and report potential phishing scams, organizations can safeguard their sensitive data from cybercriminals looking to exploit any vulnerability they can find.

Vishing (voice phishing)

As technology advances, scammers are finding new ways to obtain sensitive information from unsuspecting victims. Vishing, or voice phishing, is one such technique that has become increasingly popular in recent years. Scammers often pose as legitimate organizations or individuals and use social engineering tactics to gain the trust of their victims over the phone. They may ask for personal information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, and login credentials, putting individuals and businesses at risk of fraud and identity theft.

To prevent falling prey to vishing attacks, it's essential to verify the identity of the caller before sharing any sensitive information. This can be done by contacting the organization directly through a verified phone number or website. Additionally, educating employees about vishing and other phishing techniques can help protect your organization from these scams. By taking these precautions, you can keep both yourself and your business safe from the harmful effects of voice phishing.

SMS phishing

SMS phishing, also known as smishing, is a type of phishing attack that uses text messages to lure victims into sharing their sensitive information. These messages may appear to be from legitimate sources such as banks or government agencies, but in reality, the senders are cybercriminals looking to steal personal information. To protect yourself from SMS phishing, it is crucial to verify the legitimacy of any message before responding or clicking on links. This can be done by checking the sender's phone number or verifying the link's domain name. By staying cautious and informed, you can prevent falling prey to SMS phishing scams.

Page hijacking

Page hijacking is a common technique that redirects users from a legitimate website to a fake one. This type of attack is particularly dangerous as it may go unseen by the user until sensitive information has already been compromised. Phishers use several methods to hijack pages, including malware, cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks, and DNS hijacking. Once the user lands on the fake page, a form prompts them to enter sensitive information such as passwords or credit card details. To avoid falling prey to page hijacking, it's important to keep your software up-to-date, use strong passwords, and be wary of suspicious emails or links that may lead you to fake websites. It is also a best practice to regularly monitor your financial transactions and report any fraudulent activity immediately.

Calendar phishing

This type of phishing attack involves sending fake calendar invitations that appear legitimate but contain malicious links or requests for sensitive information. Once the user accepts the invitation, the attacker prompts them to provide login credentials or bank account details, which they use for fraudulent activities.

Encourage your team to scrutinize all calendar invitations carefully and verify their legitimacy before accepting them. Additionally, consider investing in security software that can help detect and block phishing attempts in real time. By being vigilant and proactive against these threats, you can minimize the risk of falling victim to a calendar phishing scam.

Example of a phishing email

To get a sense of how deceiving and hard-to-recognize phishing emails are, take a look at an example mentioning a well-renowned company below.

Although the email format looks convincing enough, the text sounds unprofessional and can give the impression of a phishing scam. If this phishing email deceived you, here's what follows. Essentially the email is created with the goal of redirecting the victim to a fake landing page that has the same look and feel as the original one from the well-known company. Here is how the entire phishing scam is envisioned:

  1. The victim clicks on the link and is redirected to a fake PayPay page.
  2. The user is prompted to log in with their username and password.
  3. Upon logging in, the user is presented with an explanation about why their account is restricted in order to add more credibility to the whole scenario.
  4. The user is prompted to enter their billing information.
  5. The victim is prompted to give out credit card information.
  6. ''The account is verified!'' message pops up for added credibility.
  7. The victim is redirected to the actual PayPal homepage.

By now, the attacker has all the information about the victim's PayPal account, has their credit card information, and is capable of accessing the account and causing significant financial damage to the victim. Moreover, the same combination of user credentials used for this scam can be reentered on other popular web services, potentially causing even more damage.

What are the warning signs of a phishing attack?

Although phishing attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated, there are some warning signs that you can look out for to protect yourself from these scams. Here's a list of phishing red flags to watch out for.

1. Asking for personal/company sensitive information

Nowadays, attackers are not going to ask for sensitive information directly in the email. The email will usually contain a link redirecting the victim to a fake web page requiring login information and often credit card details. These types of phishing emails are usually mentioning an urgent request to verify an account.

2. Sudden sense of urgency and threats

It is always a good idea to rethink your next step when faced with emails containing urgent matters that require giving out your/company's information. Also, be skeptical about the ones that mention extremely negative consequences – threatening emails. The attackers are counting on the fact that most people will immediately feel overwhelmed and act as told in order to avoid the conseque

3. Message style

Pay attention to the wording of an email. In case the email is sent by a colleague, ask yourself does it sound overly casual. The same goes for phishing emails pretending to be sent by well-renowned companies. Put some context between the sender and the content of the message, and make sure to double-check the source in case there is any suspicion.

4. Spelling errors

Although spelling errors are common, professional communication is usually run through several spell checks before sending. Therefore, look out for emails containing spelling errors that are coming from unknown sources and well-known companies.

5. Non-standard action requests

A good example would be a request to update/install additional software on your device. These requests usually come from a well-known email address within your company. If you can't recognize the domain or notice the smallest spelling errors regarding the sender's email, make sure to contact your actual IT department and report such cases.

6. Web address inconsistencies

You should always hover over a link attached to an email to uncover the location it's redirecting you to. In case the domain does not match with the sender – let's say an email from PayPal is redirecting you to – this is a clear sign of a phishing email.

Best practices to prevent phishing attacks

When it comes to preventing phishing attacks, there are several best practices that organizations can implement. These measures can help reduce the likelihood of successful attacks and minimize any potential damage.

User awareness training

In the fight against phishing attacks, user awareness training is an essential component of any comprehensive anti-phishing strategy. Employees need training to recognize the signs of a phishing attack, such as suspicious emails or requests for sensitive information. Regularly scheduled training sessions can ensure that employees stay up-to-date on the latest phishing techniques and are prepared to respond appropriately.

Effective user awareness training should also cover best practices for password management and safe browsing habits. When employees understand how to avoid risky online behavior, they become less vulnerable to attacks that rely on social engineering tactics. By investing in user awareness training, organizations can significantly reduce the risk of a successful phishing attack and protect their sensitive data from unauthorized access.

Email security tools

Ensuring email security is crucial in protecting your organization from phishing attacks. Email security tools can help detect and block phishing emails before they reach employee inboxes. These tools include spam filters, anti-virus software, and multi-factor authentication that adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second form of verification before allowing access to sensitive information.

However, it's essential to note that email security tools alone may not be enough to prevent successful phishing attacks. Employees need training on how to recognize and report suspicious emails and requests for sensitive information.

Implement MFA

As phishing attacks become increasingly sophisticated, organizations need to implement more robust security measures to protect against them. One such measure is multi-factor authentication (MFA), which adds an extra layer of protection to the login process. By requiring users to provide multiple forms of identification, such as a password and a code sent to their phone, MFA significantly reduces the risk of successful phishing attacks.

Implementing MFA is a simple yet effective way to increase your organization's security posture. Educating employees on the importance of MFA and how to use it properly can go a long way in minimizing the risk of cyberattacks. Regularly reviewing and updating your MFA policies can ensure that your organization is always secure in terms of the latest phishing threats.

Consider passwordless authentication

Authentication is a crucial aspect of protecting your organization from phishing attacks. A strong authentication method can significantly reduce the risk of successful phishing attempts. Passwordless authentication is one such technique that eliminates the need for passwords and uses biometric data or one-time codes sent to a trusted device instead. Not only does this reduce the risk of phishing scams, but it also improves user experience by eliminating the need to remember complex passwords. Choosing a reliable passwordless authentication solution that meets your organization's security needs is essential in ensuring maximum protection against phishing scams.

Limit user access to sensitive information through IAM

Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions can be a powerful tool to help protect against phishing attacks by limiting user access to sensitive information. By implementing IAM policies, organizations can ensure that users only have access to the data they need to perform their job functions, which minimizes the risk of unauthorized access.

Such measures add an extra layer of protection in case a phishing attack does occur. As the threat landscape evolves, implementing IAM best practices is becoming increasingly important for organizations looking to secure their digital assets against phishing scams. It is essential for organizations to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals in this battle, and IAM is an excellent way to do so.

Conduct periodic phishing attack tests

Regular phishing attack testing is an essential part of protecting your organization from phishing scams. You can train employees to recognize and report suspicious emails by conducting periodic tests, improving your overall security posture. These tests also provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of your current security measures and processes. In addition, email filters and multi-factor authentication can add an extra layer of protection against phishing attacks. However, it's important to remember that no security measure is foolproof, so having a response plan in place in case of a successful phishing attack is crucial. This includes reporting the incident and taking immediate action to secure sensitive information. By regularly testing for vulnerabilities and having a response plan in place, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to a phishing scam.

Phishing FAQ

Phishing is a type of cyber attack where the attacker tries to trick the victim into giving away sensitive information, such as login credentials, personal information, or financial details. These attacks are typically carried out through email, text messages, or social engineering tactics.

To prevent falling victim to phishing scams, it's important to stay vigilant and educate employees on how to recognize and avoid them. This can include things like being cautious when clicking links or downloading attachments in emails from unknown senders, verifying the authenticity of messages from trusted sources, and reporting any suspicious activity immediately.

A phishing attack is a type of cyberattack where the attacker poses as a trustworthy entity in an attempt to obtain sensitive information. These attacks usually come in the form of emails or social media messages and often aim to trick the recipient into clicking on a malicious link or providing personal information.

To identify a phishing attack, look for suspicious senders, urgent language, and requests for personal information. It's important to be cautious when receiving any unsolicited messages and never provide personal information unless you are certain of the legitimacy of the request.

Signs of phishing include urgent language in emails, such as "act now" or "urgent action required," and email addresses that may look similar to legitimate companies but have small differences. Phishing attempts may also ask for personal information or login credentials.

Poor grammar and spelling errors are also common signs of a phishing attempt. If you suspect an email is a phishing attempt, do not click on any links or provide any personal information. Instead, report it to the appropriate authorities and delete the email immediately.

Phishing targets anyone, but it's common for individuals and organizations with valuable information to be the main target. Phishers may try to gain access to sensitive data by targeting employees of a company or organization. Phishing attacks can also target individuals through emails, social media messages, or phone calls.

To protect yourself from these scams, it's important to stay vigilant and educate yourself on how to recognize and prevent phishing attempts.

Clicking on a phishing email link or attachment can lead to malware installation on your computer, compromising sensitive information like login credentials or financial details. Cybercriminals can use this information for identity theft or financial fraud. It is crucial to be cautious and verify the source of any emails before clicking on links or downloading attachments to avoid any potential harm to your personal and financial security.

The term "phishing" is a play on the word "fishing," as scammers use fraudulent emails or websites to lure victims into giving away sensitive information. Phishing attacks often use social engineering tactics, such as posing as a trusted entity or creating a sense of urgency, to trick victims into revealing their personal or financial information.

The goal of these attacks is to steal sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card numbers, and bank account details. As with fishing, the attackers cast a wide net in the hopes of catching unsuspecting victims.

Start with forwarding suspicious emails to your organization's IT department. If the phishing attempt claims to be from a specific company or website, it's also a good idea to notify them so they can take appropriate action to protect their customers. Reporting phishing attempts helps protect yourself and others from falling victim to scams and identity theft.

In case you're curious, feel free to contact us - zero obligation. Our ASEE team will be happy to hear you out.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity trends and industry news?



chevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram