Data is one of the most valuable commodities that an organization can own in today’s business environment. Because of this value, it has become a primary target by malicious actors. These hackers have multiple methods for attacking a business, and one of the most commonly seen is phishing attacks. Luckily, with the proper steps, you can learn how to prevent phishing attacks.
Actions to Take to Protect Against Phishing Attacks
Phishing attacks can take on many forms, the most common being email. Cybercriminals often pose as legitimate people or organizations to lower a user’s suspicion. These criminals specially craft malware that hides within content, usually presented through a suspicious link. Once the user clicks the link, it can give the perpetrators access to their computer system—and its data.
There are clear steps that industry-leading MSSPs utilize to protect against phishing attacks:
- Installing and updating appropriate security software and controls
- Protecting against hazards commonly targeted by phishing attacks
- Utilizing system backups for recovery if an attack may have occurred
- Maintaining access control (i.e., passwords and multifactor authentication)
The above-mentioned practices are excellent tools to add to your online protection programs.
Implementing Proper Security Software
Ensuring that your business has up-to-date security software is critical when figuring out how to stop phishing emails from victimizing you. Malicious actors are constantly evolving new ways to breach businesses’ security systems to gain access to valuable information. The malware used by cyber attackers can encrypt files and other valuable programs to render them unusable.
But by updating your system with the newest available security patches, you can block later breaches and stop the spread of malware across your systems, reversing the damage.
In particular, you should install firewall and web filtering software to ensure that any illicit content cannot be accessed by your staff. And you should implement a patch management system that ensures all installed safeguards are always updated to their most current, effective versions.
Account for the Dangers of Remote Work
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are choosing to work from home. This directly impacts both daily internet usage, as well as our reliance on the internet. With more people online, there are more opportunities for hackers to scam through malware and phishing attacks. Atlas VPN reported back in March of 2020 that, because of the increase of use at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a 350% increase in active phishing websites from January that year.
Phishing is also especially dangerous for organizations using a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, where employees’ personal devices come into contact with sensitive organizational data.
When strategizing how to avoid phishing scams targeting these vulnerabilities, consider:
- Implementing email risk identification and management training
- Restricting access and storage of sensitive data on private devices
- Ensuring software on personal devices is updated and patched
With these measures taken, a business can drastically reduce its chances of encountering malware or phishing attacks, even in at-risk environments or scenarios (e.g., WFH, BYOD).
Security Backups for Simple Recovery Efforts
By backing up your data you ensure that, in the case of a malicious hacker breaking through your security protocols, you will still have an exact, secure copy of your business’s information.
The stored data may include or concern applications, customer or client information, intellectual property and product specifications, employee and supplier records, and valuable research. By having a partial or full backup and recovery plan, either in the cloud or in a fully safeguarded location on-premise, your business may prevent the worst impacts of effective phishing attacks.
Incorporate the 3-2-1 Rule
One of the most effective data recovery strategies is the 3-2-1 rule, developed by Peter Krogh in 2005 and recommended by CISA to this day. This rule remains a gold standard because of its simplicity and effectiveness, regardless of industry, location, and particular threat factors.
The three tenets of the rule are as follows:
- You should create three backups—one primary and two additional copies.
- You should save the copies on two distinct types of storage devices.
- You should keep one of the storage devices off of your premises.
The biggest impact of the 3-2-1 rule is reducing the potential damage a phishing attack (or other attack) can do to your systems. It ensures that, no matter what, at least one backup will be safe.
Password Policies and Access Control
Having robust access controls is one last bulwark against phishing and other social engineering attacks. And access control begins with password policies governing things like strength, length, complexity, and frequency of updates to passwords. Employees and clientele need to know they shouldn’t ever use passwords like “password123”—or, ideally, be literally unable to use them.
The typical password length is roughly 8 characters long. However, recent studies indicate that passwords with a minimum length of 14 characters provide much greater security. Initiating a password policy to require employees to utilize special characters as well as numbers prevents unauthorized access through phishing attacks that steal passwords or personal information.
Multi-Factor Authentication and Phishing
Passwords are where access control begins, but they are not where it ends. Upon obtaining a single password, hackers can grind business to a halt. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) works to put roadblocks in front of the malicious actors, no matter the method they utilize to infiltrate.
MFA works by requiring users to present more than one identifying factor (i.e., a password) to authenticate their identity. Typically, other factors involve something the user knows, has, or is:
- A knowledge factor – A mother’s maiden name, a childhood pet, a first address, etc.
- A possession factor – A secondary device, browser, or account the user owns.
- A biological factor – A biometric scan of the fingerprint, retina, or other body parts.
MFA is required in certain regulatory contexts (i.e., for PCI DSS). And, even where it isn’t, it is one of the best ways to prevent phishing from compromising accounts—and, ultimately, data.
How to Avoid Phishing Attacks Effectively
Phishing scams and emails are predatory in nature, as they are simply waiting for an employee to slip up. It can happen to any individual and falling prey to an attack can be devastating for a business. The tips offered above will drastically improve your ability to counteract these malicious attacks, but the burden of responsibility will still rest on your lap.
To make sure your organization is safe, consider contacting RSI Security.
Our team of experts works diligently to actively assess threats, update security software, manage device access, and train personnel on how to prevent phishing attacks.
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