Phishing attacks have become one of the top cybersecurity threats facing businesses today. A successful phishing attack can result in stolen credentials, financial loss, and breached data. As cybercriminals get more sophisticated in their tactics, it’s crucial for businesses to stay vigilant and keep their defenses up.
This is what businesses need to know about what phishing is, why it’s such a prevalent threat, and, most importantly, the steps you can take to protect your business from phishing attacks like cyber insurance.
What is Phishing?
Phishing is a type of social engineering attack often used to steal user data and credentials. It works by disguising itself as a trustworthy entity in electronic communication.
The most common phishing attacks include:
- Email phishing: Fraudulent emails pretending to be from a legitimate company. They often include malicious links or attachments.
- Smishing: Phishing attempts sent through text messages.
- Vishing: Phishing scams carried out through voice calls.
- Spear phishing: Highly targeted phishing attacks against specific individuals.
- Whaling: Spear phishing attacks directed specifically at senior executives.
- Business email compromise: Cybercriminals posing as high-level executives to fool employees into unauthorized wire transfers.
These attacks rely on social engineering techniques to manipulate users into giving up sensitive information or clicking on malicious links. They take advantage of our tendency to trust notifications and messages that seem to come from legitimate sources.
Why is Phishing So Dangerous?
There are several reasons why phishing poses such a significant threat:
- It targets the weakest link: No matter how much technology a business has, human error can often jeopardize security. Even vigilant users can be fooled by well-crafted phishing emails.
- It only takes one click: A successful phishing attack often needs only one employee to make the mistake of clicking a malicious link or downloading an infected attachment. Once the entry point is established, cybercriminals can gain access to sensitive systems and data.
- It can bypass standard defenses: Basic email security solutions often don’t recognize sophisticated phishing attempts. Messages can appear to come from real contacts or contain branding and content specifically designed to evade automatic detection.
- It exploits trust: We’re conditioned to think that messages from banks, social networks, and other services we use are legitimate. Phishing takes advantage of that inherent trust.
For these reasons, phishing can be a severe threat to businesses of any size and industry. A breach can result in stolen funds, loss of customer data, regulatory penalties, and damage to the company’s reputation.
8 Ways to Protect Your Business from Phishing
The key to reducing the risk of phishing is through policies focused on awareness, technical controls, and incident response.
Here are eight steps businesses can take to strengthen their defenses:
1. Educate Employees on Phishing Threats
Ongoing security awareness training is crucial to building a “human firewall.” Employees need to understand how to recognize and report phishing attempts. Focus training on identifying red flags like:
- Grammar and spelling errors
- Suspicious links and attachments
- Requests for sensitive data or credentials
- Threats demanding urgent action
- Emails from unusual addresses
Remind staff to always verify unexpected messages before clicking links or attachments.
2. Enable Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of security beyond just a password. Users need to provide a second form of identification, often from a generated code or biometric like a fingerprint. 2FA makes it much harder for phishing attempts to succeed because thieves would need both the password and physical device.
Major services like Gmail, Slack, GitHub, and more now offer 2FA options. Enable it wherever possible, especially for accounts with sensitive access.
3. Be Cautious of Requests for Data
A common phishing technique is to pose as IT or a high-level exec requesting sensitive company or employee data.
Make it clear that staff should never send such info without directly verifying the request over the phone or in person. Explicit approval processes for data requests can help reduce risk.
4. Watch for Suspicious Senders
Review the full email address of any unexpected contacts. Phishing emails will often come from odd addresses intended to look real. References to generics like “support” instead of specific agent names can also be red flags. Steps like displaying sender addresses can help staff identify shady contacts.
5. Limit Public Email Exposure
The less cybercriminals can find out about your business online, the harder it is for them to craft convincing phishing emails.
Be wary of publicly posting generic contact info like firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, limit the sharing of personnel names, vendors, partners, and organizational details that could help phishers personalize attacks.
6. Use Strong Email Security Tools
Invest in robust email security solutions that go beyond the basics. Look for AI-powered threat detection that scans for malicious links, attachments, and phishing content. Solutions like Proofpoint and Mimecast can automatically quarantine suspicious emails before they reach employee inboxes.
7. Educate Customers About Phishing
Make information about phishing scams against your business easily available to customers. This helps them identify and report suspicious emails claiming to be from your company. Being proactive about phishing education strengthens trust with your audience.
8. Have an Incident Response Plan
Despite best efforts, phishing attacks can still happen. Develop an incident response plan for confirmed phishing incidents like compromised employee accounts or data loss. Include steps like resetting passwords, auditing systems for unauthorized access, notifying customers if needed, and reviewing security policies to prevent future breaches.
The Role of Cyber Insurance in Phishing Protection
Alongside internal controls, cyber insurance can be invaluable protection against phishing and other cyber threats. Policies provide coverage for:
- Incident response costs: Forensics, investigations, and public relations services after an attack.
- Business interruption: Reimbursement for income loss and expenses due to phishing-related downtime.
- Phone fraud: Coverage for phishing-enabled phone hacking resulting in fraudulent calls.
- Cyber extortion: Ransomware response and negotiation services.
- Civil and regulatory fines: Financial liability protection.
- Consumer notification: Legally required breach notifications to customers.
With comprehensive insurance, you can have assurance that losses from phishing will be minimized. Be sure to understand policy exclusions and work with your provider to ensure adequate protection.
Stay Vigilant Against Phishing
Phishing scams continue to grow in sophistication. But with constant employee education, email security, and cyber insurance, you can equip your business to thwart most phishing attempts.
Don’t get complacent about these risks, as cybercriminals look for any opportunity to breach your defenses. Keep phishing protection a regular priority, and you’ll be well-positioned to avoid becoming the next phishing headline.
Get a Free Risk Assessment
KSA partners Coalition offers a free cyber risk assessment, providing an overview of your risks and vulnerabilities. In addition to highlighting your vulnerabilities, the assessment includes a summary of recommended actions to help you mitigate your risk. Coalition also offers access to trained cybersecurity experts who can answer any questions you may have about the assessment or the recommendations you are provided.
Protect Your Business
You can focus on growing your business, which is what you do best, by leaving the protection to us. Every company faces different cyber threats and vulnerabilities. You, therefore, need insurance that is specific to you.
For any company, cyber insurance provides essential security. It’s time to defend against cyberattacks for both you and your clients. Our team at KSA Insurance can assist you since we have years of experience and the know-how to guide you through the process of designing a policy that meets your needs. When you’re ready, get a free quote from us right now!