Prevent a Phishing Cyber Attack with 3 Simple Steps

The use of phishing cyber attacks and scams is constantly targeting individuals and organizations online. Recently, the Government of Moldova has been the target of a flood of phishing attacks of varying complexity. Furthermore, according to a study conducted by SlashNext, from 2019 to 2022, phishing attempts using malicious URLs increased by over 61%. However, what exactly is phishing, how can you protect yourself against it, and what should you do if you have been a victim?

What is Phishing?

A phishing cyber attack is an attempt to steal information about a user – such as credit card information, passwords, or other personal information. Typically, this occurs when an attacker poses as a trustworthy source in order to trick their victim into opening an email and clicking on a malicious link. Clicking on one of these links may cause your computer to freeze, install a keylogger, or perform other harmful actions. Some malware is designed to deploy ransomware – which completely locks the user out of their system and demands payment in order to regain access.

Phishing typically involves harvesting user data, such as logins, bank account information, social security numbers, and anything else a malicious source can retrieve. People are often victimized by these phishing attacks because malicious actors pose as legitimate sources.

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Phishing Attack Techniques

In most cases, phishing attacks are carried out via email. It has been observed that spear-fishing attempts have been made through SMS messages and telephone calls in the last few years, especially since remote work has become more common. Attackers prefer to use email as a method of phishing because it is both believable and easy to execute.

To attackers, email is a numbers game. Even with a small success rate, the attacker will still collect substantial sums of money and information by sending out hundreds of thousands of phishing emails. It is the small percentage of people who respond to or fall for these scams that motivates these attackers. In the event of a 1% success rate, that would be 10 people out of 1,000.

In order to increase their success rates, attackers are constantly changing their methods and adapting as companies and cybersecurity professionals aim to address these scams. They will resort to extensive lengths to mimic the look and feel of legitimate emails from legitimate organizations, often using the same fonts, logos, imagery, and signatures.

Based on posts on company websites, social media profiles, and even press releases, these attackers are usually able to obtain accurate information. In addition, they can obtain snippets of how a person might write from these sources. It is common for attackers to go to elaborate lengths in order to make their phishing attacks seem more credible.

App bar on an iPhone displaying the Mail email app icon with 20 unread emails related to phishing cyber attacks
Attackers prefer to use email as a method of phishing because it is both believable and easy to execute. It is often easier and more believable than SMS messages, phone calls, or physical mail.

Moreover, attackers often attempt to increase the sense of urgency by presenting the recipient with an emergency situation, usually impersonating their employer’s IT department or financial institution. It is common for phishing emails to contain lines such as “Your password will expire in two days” or “Your credit card information has expired”. This usually creates the idea that you should act now and ask questions later, giving the attackers what they want.

3 simple steps to reduce phishing attacks

Due to recent trends and the increasing complexity of phishing cyber attacks, many tips and tricks are out of date, such as two-factor authentication and heavily relying on custom spam filters. To protect yourself and your business, it is important to keep up with the latest trends and security alerts.

Make sure you and your users are aware of the latest advancements in cyber security. It is imperative that everyone is aware of what is taking place in the world of cyber crime as it is ever-changing with emerging threats appearing frequently. Organizations are often advised to send out email reminders regarding phishing attempts to their staff.
The implementation of educational campaigns can also assist in reducing the threat of phishing attacks by enforcing secure practices, such as not clicking on links in external emails.

Make multi-factor authentication (MFA) available to all users. While two-factor authentication (2FA) used to be good enough, attackers found ways to exploit traditional methods used by 2FA. When logging into sensitive applications, it provides an additional layer of verification. The Multi-Factor Authentication process requires users to have two items in their possession: something they know, such as their password and user name, and something they possess, such as their mobile device. MFA serves as an additional layer of protection against unauthorized access to employees’ accounts even if their account information has been compromised.

Consider partnering with a company that provides IT services that are focused on security, such as Dark Blue Technologies. It is common for cyber security initiatives to be overlooked or understaffed. Ensure that you avoid this mistake by hiring professionals to assist you. Regardless of the type and style of business, we offer security plans to meet your needs.

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