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Tip of the Week: Spotting a Phishing Attempt

Tip of the Week: Spotting a Phishing Attempt

With email being such a huge part of doing business, phishing has become a favorite tool of many scammers. To fight back, it is key that you know how to recognize a phishing email, so we’re dedicating this week’s tip to doing just that.

What is Phishing?

Phishing goes beyond just your email. The term actually covers any digital attempt that someone makes to trick you into revealing important information about your business or personal accounts. A ‘phisher’ would try to fool you into handing over a particular detail about yourself, like the password you use for your online banking, or your business’ client and personnel files.

Of course, a scammer doesn’t have to use email as their preferred phishing tool. With social media becoming such a big part of business and personal life, phishers will pose as people you know and message you to try and extract information. Others will just pick up the phone and call you as someone else, hoping you won’t question them and hand over the information they want.

These different methods that a scammer might use can even classify the attempt into a more precise type of phishing. Attacks that are highly customized to one particular target are called “spear” phishing attacks, while those that pose as the CEO of a company are called “whaling.”

Regardless of what kind of phishing it is, it ultimately relies on deception to work, more than any other factor.

Spotting Phishing

Fortunately, while some phishing scams are getting to be pretty elaborate, there are a few practices that can help prevent you from being fooled. Here, we’ve put them together to give you a simple guide to avoiding potential phishing attacks.

Warning Signs

There are plenty of warning signs to help you spot a phishing attack. Some are found in the body of the email itself, while others are actually based a little bit in behaviors. For instance:

Is the message filled with spelling and grammar issues? Think about it this way: does it look good for a business to send out official correspondence with these kinds of avoidable errors? Mind you, we aren’t referring to the occasional typo, rather the tone of the message as a whole. It certainly does not, which suggests that the message may not be legitimate.

Is the message written to make you panic about something? Consider how many phishing messages are framed: “Oh no, you have an immediate issue with something so we need you to confirm your access credentials so that this immediate issue can be resolved. Otherwise, there will be huge consequences.” While there are a variety of ways that people can be convinced, these types of messages hit on some major ones: striking quickly to keep people from questioning you, removing power from someone who wouldn’t listen to you, and using very definitive and final terms. Does the message do these things, suddenly alerting you to a terrible issue that only the sender can protect you from? If so, there is a good chance that it is a scam.

Is the message a typical occurrence in general? Finally, think about the average case when a message like this is received. If you were to suddenly get a message on social media from someone who you really don’t talk to, it’d be a little weird, right? The same goes for your business communications… how often would this supposed sender actually reach out for this?

Protecting Your Assets

Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to help reduce how effective these attacks can be.

  • Use a spam blocking solution to help reduce the number of phishing messages your employees need to deal with. While many phishers have become more sophisticated, plenty are still keeping it simple enough to be stopped automatically.

  • Make sure your employees are trained to spot and properly handle attempts that may come through. By starting with the end user, you’re taking away a lot of the power that phishing has.

At 415 IT, we appreciate the importance of secure workplace practices. If you’d like to learn more about phishing, and how we can help stop it from hurting your business, reach out to us at (415) 295-4898.

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