Phishing scams are one of the most common methods of attack you’re likely to come across. They are a hugely profitable attack method for cybercriminals, as thousands fall victim to them every year. Fortunately, due to their commonplace nature, phishing scams are avoidable if you know how to correctly identify and prevent them.
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Here are 10 simple steps to identifying and preventing phishing scams.
1. Know what a phishing scam looks like
New phishing attack methods are being developed all the time, but they share commonalities that can be identified if you know what to look for. There are many sites online that will keep you informed of the latest phishing attacks and their key identifiers. The earlier you find out about the latest attack methods and share them with your users through regular security awareness training, the more likely you are to avoid a potential attack.
2. Don’t click on that link
It’s generally not advisable to click on a link in an email or instant message, even if you know the sender. The bare minimum you should be doing is hovering over the link to see if the destination is the correct one. Some phishing attacks are fairly sophisticated, and the destination URL can look like a carbon copy of the genuine site, set up to record keystrokes or steal login/credit card information. If it’s possible for you to go straight to the site through your search engine, rather than click on the link, then you should do so.
3. Get free anti-phishing add-ons
Most browsers nowadays will enable you to download add-ons that spot the signs of a malicious website or alert you about known phishing sites. They are usually completely free so there’s no reason not to have this installed on every device in your organization.
4. Don’t give your information to an unsecured site
If the URL of the website doesn’t start with “https”, or you cannot see a closed padlock icon next to the URL, do not enter any sensitive information or download files from that site. Site’s without security certificates may not be intended for phishing scams, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
5. Rotate passwords regularly
If you’ve got online accounts, you should get into the habit of regularly rotating your passwords so that you prevent an attacker from gaining unlimited access. Your accounts may have been compromised without you knowing, so adding that extra layer of protection through password rotation can prevent ongoing attacks and lock out potential attackers.
6. Don’t ignore those updates
Receiving numerous update messages can be frustrating, and it can be tempting to put them off or ignore them altogether. Don’t do this. Security patches and updates are released for a reason, most commonly to keep up to date with modern cyber-attack methods by patching holes in security. If you don’t update your browser, you could be at risk of phishing attacks through known vulnerabilities that could have been easily avoided.
7. Install firewalls
Firewalls are an effective way to prevent external attacks, acting as a shield between your computer and an attacker. Both desktop firewalls and network firewalls, when used together, can bolster your security and reduce the chances of a hacker infiltrating your environment.
8. Don’t be tempted by those pop-ups
Pop-ups aren’t just irritating; they are often linked to malware as part of attempted phishing attacks. Most browsers now allow you to download and install free ad-blocker software that will automatically block most of the malicious pop-ups. If one does manage to evade the ad-blocker though, don’t be tempted to click! Occasionally pop-ups will try and deceive you with where the “Close” button is, so always try and look for an “x” in one of the corners.
9. Don’t give out important information unless you must
As a general rule of thumb, unless you 100% trust the site you are on, you should not willingly give out your card information. Make sure, if you have to provide your information, that you verify the website is genuine, that the company is real and that the site itself is secure.
10. Have a Data Security Platform to spot signs of an attack
If you are unfortunate enough to be the victim of a successful phishing attack, then it’s important you are able to detect and react in a timely manner. Having a data security platform in place helps take some of the pressure off the IT/Security team by automatically alerting on anomalous user behavior and unwanted changes to files. If an attacker has access to your sensitive information, data security platforms can help to identify the affected account so that you can take actions to prevent further damage.