How to Stop a Phishing Email

There’s no denying that phishing attacks are significant security risks for businesses and organizations. According to Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report, phishing is the top action preferred by cybercriminals to gain access to user accounts.

Phishing is not a new way for hackers to steal information, and it’s a method that won’t stop being prevalent in today’s digital world. Many people receive phishing emails each day. And some individuals sadly get their online accounts compromised because of them.

What is a phishing attack?

Phishing is undoubtedly a popular way for cybercriminals to gain access to sensitive data such as people’s personal and financial information. They can carry out phishing attacks in various ways, but the most straightforward method for them by far is email.

A phishing attack relies on tricking people into believing they are getting contacted by a legitimate company or organization.

A well-constructed phishing email can easily persuade an unsuspecting recipient to visit a URL from the email. The website is fake and mirrors the wording and layout of the legitimate brand’s site, and unsuspecting users input their login details into it.

Sometimes, phishing emails contain attachments from supposedly genuine senders. Of course, the receiver isn’t expecting any attachments.

How does a phishing attack work?

Phishing emails work because of two things. Firstly, the email content mirrors that of ones from the legitimate businesses they pretend to be. Even information such as legal information at the bottom of the message is the same.

Secondly, each phishing email plays to a person’s psychology and requests urgent action from the recipient. Irrespective of the message content, the goal is always the same: entice the email receiver to access a hyperlinked URL to complete some action.

When the unsuspecting email recipient accesses the fake website, it will tell them to log into what they assume is the legitimate company’s website. But, they’ve submitted their login details to a fake website, and the cybercriminals now have the user’s account credentials.

Five common phishing email themes

All phishing emails arrive in a recipient’s inbox demanding immediate attention or action of some description. The following is five common themes that try to lure email recipients into unwittingly handing over their login details and how they work:

1. Billing Problem

There’s a problem with your funding source, and you need to log into your account to update your payment details.

2. Tax Refund

You’ve overpaid your taxes, and the IRS wants to issue you with a tax refund.

3. Unauthorized Account Activity

There has been suspicious activity logged against your account, and you must log into it to reset your password.

4. Missed Delivery

No one was home to receive your delivery, so you need to reschedule it.

5. Suspended Account

Your account got suspended due to hacking attempts, so you must log into it and confirm your identity.

How to avoid falling for a phishing attack

The good news is both you and your team can avoid falling for any phishing attacks by taking some simple steps. Firstly, it’s crucial to educate your staff on how to recognize phishing emails. Clues include:

  • Looking for misspelled words and poor grammar
  • URL links that go to random website addresses or misspelled official ones
  • Emails that start “Dear Customer” rather than addressing the recipient by name

Secondly, setting up or upgrading email filters will decrease the phishing emails that make it through to people’s inboxes. A local IT company in Arlington can assist you with this process and add extra security layers such as multi-factor authentication,

Lastly, running some phishing simulations will show you how prepared your organization is to identify and stop phishing emails in their tracks.