With abundant personal information online, it’s imperative to protect your employees and business from cybercriminals. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, it received 19,369 complaints in 2020 regarding business email and email account compromises with adjusted losses of $1.8 million. It also received 241,342 complaints about phishing scams with adjusted losses of more than $54 million.
Many of these attacks were attributed to spear phishing, which targets individuals by including key information about them. Knowing what you can do to protect your business from these types of scams can help you keep your employees’ personal information and your company’s data secure.
What Is Spear Phishing?
Phishing is the cybercrime of sending emails that appear to be from real organizations to convince recipients to provide personal information. Spear phishing is a type of phishing, but it’s more sophisticated because it targets specific victims. Cybercriminals scour the internet and locate targets to obtain personal information about them. They look through social media accounts and other online presences to find email addresses, hobbies, and recent purchases and carefully draft specific emails to gain the trust of their victims.
These messages create a sense of urgency and encourage victims to share personal information they might not normally share, such as credentials, passwords, and bank account information. The emails tend to include requests to click on links that direct victims to websites where they input this information or are asked to download malware.
For instance, some emails might look like they come from someone in human resources and encourage the employee to click on a link to learn more about updates to the employee handbook. However, if the employee clicks on the link, they’re directed to an external website where the cybercriminals are waiting to receive information from the employee or the business.
Once these criminals have obtained this information, they use the data to enter the victims’ bank accounts or create false online identities. They disguise themselves as friends or coworkers of the victims, which makes it even more difficult for other potential victims to discern between legitimate and fraudulent messages.
Some cybercriminals prefer to stay under the radar and continue to capitalize on their spear phishing success, while others might contact people at your company and claim they’ve committed a ransomware attack. According to the White House, ransomware payments topped more than $400 million globally in 2020.
If a ransomware attack occurs, these cybercriminals might threaten to publish personal information or company data unless a ransom is paid. Certain ransomware can lock the system without damaging files, but more advanced systems use cryptoviral extortion, which encrypts the files and the data. The victim pays the ransom to release the encrypted data.
What Can You Do To Protect Your Organization?
Since cybercriminals’ tactics for stealing information are constantly evolving, it’s important to know how to protect your company. Here are some methods you can try:
Keeping your employees informed and training them are two of the most important ways you can combat spear phishing. Knowing what to look for in emails can help them avoid falling victim, so make cybersecurity a focus. When they open emails from external senders, they should know to look at the sender’s email address.
Implement a Security Policy
While you likely already have a strong security policy in place, you should go one step further and implement password management. Remind employees never to give out their passwords, even to those they trust. Also, set up the password system to accept password complexity requirements so that employees can’t simply add numbers at the end of their old passwords when creating new ones.
Use Multifactor Authentication
In addition to mandating stringent password implementations, consider adding multifactor authentication. Doing so means your employees must use two or more verification methods to gain access to a system. It can include a standard login and password along with an app-based authentication or text message.
Encrypt Files and Back Up Data
When you encrypt files, the only way others can view them is via a decryption key. Consider doing this for sensitive company information to make it more difficult for criminals to obtain. Storing backups of that data can keep the files safe in the event of a cyberattack and allow you to determine how the criminal received access, so you can prevent that from occurring again.
Keep Security Software Up to Date
Security software is a lifesaver when it comes to keeping your company’s information safe. Unprotected systems invite viruses and malware to enter. You might also be tempted to ignore notifications to update certain patches on your security systems, but it’s best to take care of those updates as soon as possible to weaken attempts to attack the system.
What Tools Can You Use To Thwart Spear Phishing Attacks?
Spear phishing attacks are often more difficult to detect than regular phishing campaigns because they’re tailored to their target. To minimize the chance of an attack, your business should implement the following:
- Email scanning: While spear phishing emails might look like they’re coming from a legitimate email address, they aren’t. Using email scanning software can determine spoof email addresses and block the emails from arriving.
- Relationship monitoring: Similar to scanning emails, this type of program develops a relationship graph, identifies abnormal messages, and flags them as potential threats.
- Attachment analysis: Suspicious emails often include attachments, such as invoices, and encourage recipients to open them. This feature inspects the files and scrubs malicious files before they reach victims’ inboxes.
- Malicious URL detection: Many spear phishing emails include malicious URLs that direct recipients to pages where criminals steal login information or install malware. These systems identify and block emails that contain these types of URLs.
Spear phishing attacks can be a major threat to your company’s cybersecurity and ultimately cost your business money if the cybercriminals are successful. To help keep your company secure, reach out to the IT professionals at Golden Tech. With over 25 years of experience in the business, we work closely with our clients to ensure they achieve their business goals via the latest in IT standards, practices, and technology. We become an extension of the client’s business and consider ourselves a part of the organization.