What Is Phishing and How To Avoid It


Phishing is one of the most notorious dangers of the online world. You should be prepared to recognize and avoid these social engineering attacks because you and your team members are likely to encounter phishing as you work online.

The Internet has provided business-oriented people like you with a convenient venue to become productive and to communicate with your colleagues even from remote locations. However, spending more time on your computer as you work can make you susceptible to phishing cybercrimes.

Keep reading to discover what phishing is and how it works. Find out the common examples of phishing that occur in business settings. Learn what you should do to avoid phishing. Study the steps that you and your team should take in case you encounter phishing in the workplace.

Finally, pinpoint what is the best way to boost your company’s online protection and to strengthen your IT security.

What Is Phishing?

Phishing refers to a form of cybercrime where an impostor pretends to be a legitimate organization to encourage individuals and companies to provide sensitive personal information, banking account details, credit card information, and account passwords. This data is typically used to access important personal or business accounts. This information leak could lead to major identity theft or financial loss.

The targets of these social engineering attacks are usually contacted via websites, email, phone calls, or SMS messages. Email and website scams are popularly known as “phishing.” Voice phishing is usually called “vishing,” while text phishing is also referred to as “smishing.”

The early history of phishing may be traced back to 2004 when the very first phishing lawsuit was filed. It involved a teenager in California who made a clone website of America Online to gain the personal data and credit card information of users to withdraw financial resources from their accounts

How Phishing Works

Phishing is commonly carried out via one of these two main techniques:

Website Links

Links can lead computer users like you to visit fake websites that imitate legitimate websites in terms of appearance and structure. These clone sites usually feature login pages with credential-harvesting scripts where users can enter their account details. These imitation sites may also showcase links to malware that pretend to be credible software programs or files.

Email Attachments

Email attachments typically have attractive names that tempt users such as yourself to click on them, such as “Lottery Prize,” “Inheritance,” or “Invoice.” However, these attachments usually install malware on computers and smartphones.

Both fake websites and emails commonly use logos, colors, and fonts similar to the real sites and messages of the company or individual that the phishing scammers are impersonating.

What Are Common Examples of Phishing in the Business World?

These are some of the popular phishing types that you may encounter in business settings:

  • Email Phishing
  • Website Phishing
  • Clone Phishing

Clone phishing is using a copy of a legitimate email that was sent by a real company. This copy is sent again by an impostor, who uses an imitation email address that is deceptively close to the original address of the company.

The clone email has new attachments or links that were not included with the original email. Recipients may become victimized by clone phishing especially if they are familiar with the contents of the email.

  • Business Email Compromise

Business email compromise (BEC) is designed to trick the team members of a company to send money or share sensitive business information to a person outside of the organization. The sender of these emails falsely claims to be the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, President, or Chairman of the company.

  • Whaling

Whaling targets key members of an organization, such as executives or board members. This type of phishing aims to get confidential information and exclusive access to the accounts of company heads. Once the accounts of the leaders have been compromised, they may also be used to perform BEC phishing within the institution.

  • URL Hijacking

URL hijacking involves a clone website that closely resembles the real website of the company, but it may have small variations in terms of spelling. It seeks to profit from typos that team members make when they type the company URL into the browser. It could cause company heads and staff to enter their work account information into the wrong website.

  • DNS Cache Poisoning

DNS cache poisoning takes advantage of system weaknesses that match the domain name of websites with IP addresses. It redirects the traffic of a legitimate website to a clone website. DNS cache poisoning is also known as pharming.

  • Tabnabbing

Tabnabbing involves replacing browser tabs that have been left unattended with imitation websites. After the users resume their online activities, they may not immediately realize that the website they are browsing is no longer the original one.

  • UI Redressing

User interface (UI) redressing entails the use of various transparent layers over a legitimate website. Users may click on malicious content that is embedded in these see-through overlays instead of the real buttons beneath the layers.

How To Avoid Phishing

There are simple, but useful habits that you and your team members can regularly practice to avoid being victimized by phishing scams that target your company.

Load Official Websites Manually

It is a safer option for you to visit the websites of organizations by manually typing in the URL in the address bar of your browser than clicking on links. This will ensure that you are loading the real sites instead of fake sites.

Contact Individuals and Organizations Directly

It is a more secure alternative for you to search for the contact details of an individual or organization in your database or the company website than to click on email links. This will lessen the possibility of your contacting a scammer.

Double-check Emails

Make sure to confirm that an email was sent by the right person or organization. This is especially crucial if the message urges you to perform a specific action that could compromise the security of your company, such as the sharing of confidential information or the transfer of money.

If you are in doubt regarding the legitimacy of an email, initiate a phone call or video chat with the individual the message claims to be from to verify if he or she is the real sender before you take any concrete action.

Avoid Clicking Suspicious Files and Links

Simply don’t click on file attachments and links if you doubt the credibility of the email. If the header of the email looks suspicious from the start, don’t even open the email in the first place. Phishing needs the action of users like you to succeed so you can prevent falling from scams by taking no action.

Use Spam Filters

Utilize email spam filters to weed out potential phishing messages from your inbox. Nevertheless, while these filters can detect a good portion of spam emails, you should still be vigilant when sorting the messages that arrive in your inbox since filters are not infallible.

What To Do if You Encounter Any Type of Phishing

Despite your precautions, it is still possible for you and the other people in your company to experience phishing in the workplace. Take these steps in case you accidentally fall for phishing scams:

Report Confirmed and Suspected Phishing Attacks

Make sure to flag confirmed and suspected phishing attempts that you encounter in your company. This will enable your team to minimize the damage that was caused by these cybercrimes. It will also prevent phishing attacks from spreading since your fellow employees are likely to receive similar messages from impersonators.

Change Your Company Account Login Details

Immediately change your login details for your company account if you believe that it has been compromised due to phishing. Make sure to choose a complicated password that is not easy to guess by others. Create a password that is a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.

Level up Your Cyber Security in the Workplace

Regardless of the size of your organization, you should make an effort to enhance the cyber security of your institution. If you own a big corporation, you must make it a priority to have an in-house IT department that can protect your IT system from phishing scammers.

In medium-sized companies, you should consider hiring a dedicated IT professional. If you own a small business, it may be best to outsource your IT needs to freelance IT experts.

Boost Your Company’s Online Protection by Contacting an IT Security Company

No matter how big or small your organization is, you and your team can benefit from the services of a competent cyber-security and vCIO company.

We can educate business professionals so you can avoid phishing attacks in the workplace. Let’s help you to establish and strengthen your organization’s cyber-security so that you can stop worrying about cybercrimes and focus instead on growing your company.

Contact us today to learn how we can boost the online protection of your organization in an effective, efficient manner.

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