How Does Phishing Work?

Posted: November 17, 2023

Email phishing is a type of cyber attack where malicious actors attempt to trick individuals into providing sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, or financial information, by pretending to be a trustworthy entity in electronic communications. Phishing attacks are nothing new in the business world, and they will almost certainly become more prevalent as time passes. Unfortunately, phishing attacks have adapted their practices to get around advancements in security technology, so businesses must work extra hard to spread awareness of phishing to their employees and train them appropriately.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of how email phishing typically works so you can be aware of some of the ways your business might become the target of a phishing attack.

Preparation

-Target Identification: Attackers select individuals or organizations to target, often using publicly available information or purchased databases.
-Crafting the Email: The attacker designs an email that appears to come from a legitimate source. This could be a bank, a well-known company, a government agency, or any other trusted entity.

Delivery

-Sending the Email: The phishing email is sent to the target(s). This can be done through mass email campaigns or more targeted approaches known as spear phishing, where specific individuals are singled out.

Deception

-Appearance of Legitimacy: The email is designed to look authentic, often including logos, official-sounding language, and sometimes even the sender's email address mimicking a legitimate domain.
-Urgency and Fear: Phishing emails often create a sense of urgency or fear to prompt immediate action, such as claiming an account has been compromised, a bill is overdue, or there is an exclusive offer available for a limited time.

Exploitation

-Malicious Links: The email usually contains a link to a fake website that looks similar to the legitimate site. This site is set up to capture login credentials or other personal information.
-Attachments: Alternatively, the email may contain an attachment that, when opened, installs malware on the recipient's computer. This malware can be used to steal data, monitor activity, or further infiltrate a network.

Harvesting Information

-Data Collection: If the victim is deceived and enters their information into the fake site, the attacker collects this data. This can include usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers, etc.
-Further Attacks: The information obtained can be used directly to access accounts, steal money, or it can be sold on the dark web. Additionally, the malware may provide ongoing access to the victim's system or network.

Exfiltration and Use

-Monetizing the Information: The attacker uses the harvested information to commit fraud, identity theft, or sell the data to other criminals.
-Covering Tracks: Attackers often take steps to cover their tracks, making it difficult for the victim or law enforcement to trace the attack back to them.

Common Indicators of Phishing Emails

-Suspicious Sender: Check the sender's email address closely for slight misspellings or unusual domains.
-Generic Greetings: Phishing emails often use generic greetings like "Dear Customer" instead of your name.
-Spelling and Grammar Mistakes: Many phishing emails contain poor grammar and spelling errors.
- Unexpected Attachments or Links: Be wary of unexpected attachments or links, especially from unknown senders.
-Urgent or Threatening Language: Emails that pressure you to act quickly or face consequences.

Protection Measures

-Email Filtering: Use spam filters to catch phishing attempts before they reach your inbox.
-Education and Awareness: Regularly educate yourself and others about the latest phishing tactics and how to recognize them.
-Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Enable MFA on your accounts to add an extra layer of security.
-Verify Requests: Independently verify any requests for sensitive information by contacting the organization directly using a known and trusted method.
-Regular Updates: Keep your software and systems up to date to protect against vulnerabilities.

Ultimately, the best way to safeguard your business from potential phishing attacks is to increase awareness throughout your business. This means having a training protocol implemented for your employees, both new and existing, and constantly reinforcing cybersecurity best practices.

Digital Sky Solutions can not only help you implement security solutions for enhanced protection, we can also train your employees and reinforce appropriate cybersecurity practices through periodic testing. To learn more, reach out to us at (250) 483-5623.

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