Learning how to prevent phishing attacks starts with learning how they work. In the past decade, the Internet has turned into a virtual battlefield. It seems like every time you turn on the news, there is another story involving a large corporation falling victim to a data hack. If you are a small business owner, you know how important it is to protect your company’s, customer’s, and your employee’s information. 

This is why you need to work on educating yourself about common methods used by hackers to infiltrate business networks and exploit sensitive information. Most business owners have heard the term “phishing attack” thrown around, but many of them don’t understand what these attacks involve – or how to prevent them.

Hook, Line and Sinker: The Anatomy of a Phishing Attack

The worldwide cost of cybersecurity breaches is around $10 trillion a year. Phishing attacks are one of the most popular and potentially damaging tools used by cyber-criminals to gain access to sensitive information. These attacks come in two basic forms.

Beware of Spoof Websites

Visiting a website is something most online users do without much thought. Spoof websites are tools created by hackers in an attempt to gather sensitive information from business owners and their employees. These websites are generally designed to look like reputable websites in an attempt to fool the end-user.

Generally, hackers will use things like domain forwarding and URL cloaking to hide the fact that their website lacks legitimacy. When trying to detect a spoof website, be sure to pay attention to things like:

  • Connection security indicators like SSL certificates
  • The website URL & any unexpected redirects
  • Bad grammar and graphics
  • Discounts that are too good to be true
  • Lack of a privacy policy

Teaching your employees how to spot one of these spoof websites is crucial when working to keep their information and your network safe.

Hiding Malware In Email Download Links

Most businesses communicate with customers and employees through email – and hackers leverage this information to their advantage.

The emails sent out by cyber-criminals come from seemingly reputable sources like financial institutions, well-known brands, e-commerce stores, or popular social media websites. These emails will typically be urgent in nature and will ask the recipient to either click a link or download a file attached to the message.

Doing this can unleash ransomware attacks and other network security nightmares. Spotting these phishing emails will be much easier if you pay attention to factors such as:

  • Threats or a sense of urgency in the email
  • Inconsistencies in the email address
  • Spelling and grammar errors
  • Requests for personal or payment information

If the emails you or your employees receive have these indicators, they should be deleted immediately.

Preventing Phishing Attacks is a Multi-Faceted Process

Now that you know more about how phishing attacks are perpetrated, it is time to figure out how to keep hackers from successfully deploying these attacks on your business.

Invest in Anti-Phishing Technology

The money invested in strengthening your cyber-security defenses is well worth it. Phishing attacks are very common and can put your business in a compromised position, which is why you need to find ways to prevent them. Using the power of technology is paramount when trying to eliminate the threat of phishing attacks.

Luckily, there are many anti-phishing and fraud monitoring tools on the market designed to protect a business and its sensitive information. This technology works by detecting fraudulent activities on both websites and emails. When fraud is detected, the software will shut down the web browser being used to thwart the attempts of hackers to carry out a phishing attack.

Teach Employees To Take a Good Look At Email Addresses

Improving cyber-security is a team effort. If your employees are not educated on how to prevent a phishing attack, it is only a matter of time before they fall victim. The first step in mitigating the risk of phishing emails is teaching employees how to spot fake email addresses.

As previously mentioned, many cyber-criminals use email addresses that appear to be from reputable organizations. However, there are usually some tell-tale signs that these addresses are not legitimate. In most cases, fake email addresses will contain typos, extra letters or numbers.

By hovering over the name of the person that sent an email, employees can get a look at their actual email address. If they feel it is fraudulent, they need to report the email and delete it immediately.

Ensure All Security Patches Are Updated

Cyber-criminals make a living by finding and exploiting network/web browser vulnerabilities. If the software and browsers being used by your employees aren’t routinely updated, they will become vulnerable.

One of the main reasons for new software/web browser updates is to fix any security loopholes or vulnerabilities that exist. By keeping this technology updated, you can make it much harder for a cyber-criminal to infiltrate your network.

Don’t Click on Shortened Links

The links contained in most phishing emails hide the actual website address. Cyber-criminals use these shortened links in an attempt to deceive the email recipient and catch them off-guard.

These shortened links will usually redirect the email recipient to a fraudulent website. The best way to check for shortened links before clicking them is to hover your cursor over the link to reveal the full web address.

If you are redirected to a website that seems legitimate, be sure to check to ensure an SSL certificate is in place. These certificates act as credentials that show website visitors that the domain in question ensures encrypted and secure data transmission.

Putting These Tips to Use

Protecting your business from the dangers of phishing attacks is hard work – but as a business owner, you have a duty to safeguard sensitive information. However, in today’s fast-paced world, you may not have the time or expertise to feel confident that your business is safe. Don’t worry. That’s why companies like Next Horizon exist!

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Next Horizon provides holistic technology solutions for businesses looking to improve sales, increase agility and optimize productivity. From digital marketing to building bespoke business applications, Next Horizon uses its 40+ years of experience and award-winning talent to provide technical business solutions for its clients.

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