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The Speros Guide To Phishing Scam Awareness And Prevention. Prevent An Impact On Business Operations.

Quick and effective communication is a non-negotiable for business operations today, and thankfully, it’s easier than ever. However, the ease of digital communication might cause some of us to let our guards down a little too easily, not recognizing phishing scams quickly enough to avoid them.

Phishing scams are deceptive messages that aim to trick unsuspecting individuals into revealing sensitive information, potentially jeopardizing your business’s security, finances, and other important confidential information.

As the leading IT solutions provider in Savannah, we’ve recently observed a concerning rise in phishing attempts targeting our valued clients. This surge compels us to equip you with the knowledge and tools you’ll need to combat these scams and keep your valuable data safe.

We’ve put together a guide to empower business owners and employees to identify and thwart phishing attacks. We’ll examine the anatomy of a phishing scam, pointing out telltale signs to watch out for and equipping you with strategies to protect your information.

Demystifying Phishing: How Scammers Reel You In

Phishing scams operate on the principle of social engineering, a manipulative tactic that exploits human trust and emotions. Here’s a general breakdown of how a typical phishing attempt unfolds.

The Lure: The scammer initiates contact through an email or text message, often disguised as a legitimate source like your bank, an online service you use, or even a colleague. They might fabricate a sense of urgency, claiming suspicious activity on your account, an overdue payment, or an enticing offer.

The Bait: The message will typically contain a hyperlink or attachment. Clicking the link may direct you to a fraudulent website designed to mimic the real one. Alternatively, the attachment might be malware disguised as a document or image.

The Hook: Once you’ve interacted with the bait, by entering login credentials on the fake website or opening the malicious attachment, the scammer steals your information. This compromise can grant them access to your financial accounts, email, business systems, or even lead to data breaches affecting your clients.

Phishing Scam Red Flags

Phishing emails and texts often exhibit common red flags. Here are some key indicators to raise your guard.

Sender discrepancies: Always look closely at the sender address and displayed name. Emails with sender addresses that do not match the displayed name are a red flag. Legitimate companies typically use email addresses that align with their domain name– but always double-check the spelling of that domain name, too.

Generic greetings: Phishing emails often use generic greetings like “Dear Customer”, “Dear User”, or often just “Dear”. Reputable companies typically address you by name.

Sense of urgency: Phishing messages are designed to create a sense of urgency by claiming that immediate action is required to avoid account suspension, data loss, or missed opportunities.

Out of character messages: Occasionally, scammers will pose as colleagues or even your employer, asking for an urgent favor. If a message comes in from someone claiming to be a colleague, from an address or number you don’t recognize, always treat it with caution before clicking any attachments or replying with any sensitive information.

Grammatical and spelling errors: Legitimate companies maintain high standards for communication. Phishing attempts often contain glaring typos, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing.

Suspicious links and attachments: Always hover over links before clicking. Look for inconsistencies between the displayed text and the actual URL. Don’t open attachments unless you’re absolutely certain of their origin.

Unrealistic offers: Be skeptical of overly generous offers or incentives that seem too good to be true. 

Phishing Scam Case Study

In the above message, an employee in the Speros Web department received an email from someone posing as her supervisor. Look closely at this message and note the email address. Although the displayed name is “Molly Steadman”– the real name of her supervisor– the email address does not match the displayed name. 

The next red flag is the seemingly-urgent request for her phone number (which her actual supervisor already has) because “there’s something I need you to do”. It would be easy for a well-meaning and diligent employee to quickly reply with the phone number in question!

The generic greeting is yet another red flag. Rather than use the employee’s name, it simply says “Hey there”. 

Additionally, the employee knew that her supervisor did not have meetings all day and was in fact just on her lunch break. Her quick analysis of this email saved her from getting involved in a phishing scam that could have put her at risk.

Strategies to Combat Phishing Scams

By implementing some proactive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to attempted phishing scams. We’ve put together some effective strategies you can use. 

Avoid clicking links: One of the most reliable ways to protect yourself from phishing scams is to avoid clicking links in emails whenever possible. If you do have to click on a link, hover over it with your mouse first to make sure the link is correct.

Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Enabling MFA on your accounts is an excellent way to protect yourself. Reportedly, using MFA protects users from 96-99% of cyberattacks. MFA makes it much more difficult for would-be scammers to access your information! 

Employee education: Regularly train your employees on phishing tactics. Educate them on the red flags we’ve discussed and emphasize the importance of verifying information before clicking on links or opening attachments. At Speros, we’re also happy to provide education to your employees on the latest types of phishing scams to help you protect your company’s sensitive information.

Email filtering: Using solid email filtering solutions that can identify and quarantine suspicious emails before they reach employee inboxes can stop these scams right in their tracks! We’re also happy to implement these solutions for your company.

Strong password management: Enforce strong password policies within your organization. Encourage employees to use unique and complex passwords for different accounts, and enable multi-factor authentication wherever possible.

Data backups: Maintain regular backups of your business data. In case of a successful phishing attack– which could potentially have a major impact on your business operations– backups allow you to recover critical information quickly, minimizing losses.

Verification processes: Develop a verification process for any communication where sensitive information is requested. If an email seems suspicious, contact the sender directly through a trusted phone number or website (not the one provided in the email), to confirm its legitimacy.

Anti-phishing software: Consider implementing anti-phishing software that can warn users when they attempt to navigate to a known phishing website. 

Culture of security: Create a culture of cybersecurity awareness within your company or organization. Encourage employees to report suspicious emails or texts to your IT department or service providers immediately.

Other Phishing Scam Techniques

While many phishing scams contain noticeable red flags (if you know what to look out for!)– cybercriminals and would-be scammers are always evolving their tactics.

The example provided above– in which a scammer posed as a supervisor within the company– is a type of phishing sometimes referred to as “spear phishing”. Spear phishing scams target specific individuals within your organization. Scammers might gather information through social media (like LinkedIn) or data breaches to personalized emails with details relevant to the recipient. This personalization can make the email appear more legitimate and increase the chance of success.

Whaling is a specific type of spear phishing that targets high-level executives within a company. “Whales”, such as CEOs or CFOs, have access to sensitive information and financial resources, which makes them prime targets for certain cybercriminals.

Text messages and phone calls: Phishing attacks are often conducted via text message. These messages might mimic legitimate alerts from your bank, credit card company, or a delivery service like UPS or the USPS. Sometimes these scammers may also pose as someone you know or briefly met at some point.

Encouraging Cybersecurity to Prevent Phishing Scams

With knowledge and a few strategies up your sleeve, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to phishing scams. 

Staying updated on the latest developments in phishing scams can help you and your employees to know what to watch out for.

Simulated phishing attacks within your organization can be a successful way to test your employees’ awareness and response strategies.

Encourage employees to report suspicious emails or texts to your IT department immediately.

By staying vigilant, you can keep your business safe from phishing scams. Even the most tech-savvy individual can fall victim to these deceptive tactics. 

If you suspect your business has been compromised by a phishing attack, contact the cybersecurity experts at Speros immediately

Our team can help you assess the situation, mitigate damage, and implement stronger security measures to prevent future attacks.


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