Define Phishing: How to Prevent Scams

Define Phishing How to Prevent Scams

Define Phishing: How to Prevent Scams

If you’ve ever been on the internet or worked at a desk job, chances are you’ve come across the term “phishing.” But how do you define phishing? 

Allow us to shed some light on this cyber threat and provide you with nine essential tips for preventing phishing scams. Our goal as a managed service provider is to help you become well-equipped to deal with phishing emails and identify potential cybercriminals lurking in your digital waters.

How to Define Phishing

Phishing is a cunning digital scamming technique where cybercriminals send malicious emails, attempting to trick you into revealing sensitive information or clicking on dangerous links that could infect your device with malware.

Phishing has been around for decades, and while we wish there was a foolproof way to prevent it, unfortunately, that’s not the case. Although much of your company’s cybersecurity is handled by your internal or co-managed IT team, phishing scam prevention is something everyone, including you, needs to be aware of and actively manage.

1. Beware of Social Engineering and Psychological Triggers

Humans are naturally inclined to help others, and cybercriminals exploit this vulnerability. They use psychological triggers, like urgency and time-sensitive requests, to push you into acting without thinking. 

Be cautious when encountering emails that urge immediate action or promise extraordinary rewards.

Before interacting with a suspicious email, ask yourself:

  • Is the email pressuring me to act quickly?
  • Does the text manipulate me into taking action?

If the email raises any doubts, don’t hesitate to consult your IT specialist. They have the expertise to recognize phishing attempts definitively and can save you from potential trouble down the line.

And, if you need an IT support company but aren’t sure where to start, check out our free IT Services Buyer’s Guide.

2. Create Emergency Request Policies and Procedures

Cybercriminals may try to exploit your emotions by creating fake company emergency scenarios. To counter this, establish clear policies and procedures for handling emergency requests. 

Specify how and when such requests will be made to employees and outline the requests that will never be made. Additionally, introduce a verification process for sensitive information requests, ensuring that another party confirms such requests before any action is taken.

3. Train Your Team to Identify Phishing Attempts (and Test Them)

Basic training on spotting phishing attempts is valuable, but don’t stop there. Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated, so regular and thorough training is essential. 

Consider collaborating with us to create simulated phishing attacks to test your employees’ ability to identify potential threats.

Remember, these tests are meant to improve their skills, not to embarrass or punish them. The better your team becomes at recognizing phishing emails, the safer your company will be.

4. Make Sure Your Staff Is Reporting Phishing Emails

Encourage your team to report suspicious-looking emails they come across. Consider implementing a rewards system to incentivize reporting. 

Remember, the cost of a successful phishing attack can far outweigh the rewards offered to vigilant employees.

Simplify the reporting process to ensure that your coworkers find it easy to report any suspicious activity. Consider adding a “report” button or other user-friendly options.

And, you can learn more about phishing in our free resource, The Business Owner’s Complete Guide to Phishing.

5. Use the Dark Web to Find Company Data

Monitor the dark web for any stolen company credentials. This proactive approach will allow you to detect potential breaches and take corrective action before cybercriminals cause severe damage.

Unsure how secure your network is? Consider a penetration test to discover vulnerabilities.

6. Know How You Stand Out Online

Inform your employees, especially new ones, about the risks of sharing too much personal information online. 

Phishers often target new employees and upper management (a practice known as “whaling”) to gain access to valuable information and systems. And, unfortunately, some members of upper management can’t define phishing. 

Educate your C-suite members about security protocols to safeguard their information effectively.

7. Take Advantage of Tools and Technology

While there is no perfect solution, using various tools and technologies can significantly reduce the frequency and impact of phishing attempts. Implement email filters, Microsoft 365 Advanced Threat Protection, multi-factor authentication (MFA), network monitoring, secure web gateways (SWG) and single sign-on (SSO).

Password managers can also help your team manage strong passwords and identify phishing sites. Consider allowing only plain text emails and restricting certain types of attachments to enhance security.

8. Create a Blacklist and Mark External Emails

Use a blacklist to filter out dangerous emails from verified unsafe sources. Mark all external emails to help your coworkers recognize potential red flags in suspicious-looking emails.

Ensure that your email DNS is properly implemented to prevent email spoofing.

9. Create a Phishing Response Plan

Despite taking all possible precautions, no company can be 100 percent immune to phishing attacks. Prepare for the worst by having an incident response plan in place. 

Avoid blaming victims and instead focus on increasing cybersecurity awareness training and running regular security assessments to identify and address vulnerabilities.

Remember that phishing attempts extend beyond emails. Stay vigilant across all communication channels, including messaging apps, social media and phone calls.

Take Your Phishing Prevention to the Next Level

We hope these nine tips have helped you define phishing and assist in your future scam-prevention efforts. Cybercriminals continuously evolve their tactics, which means staying informed on the latest in cybercrime is imperative to your business’s continued security.

Feel free to contact us or book a meeting to discuss how we can best protect your company from current and future phishing attacks. At Merit Technologies, we are committed to keeping your business safe from online threats.

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