As the use of technology increases, so does cyber crime activity, which means that cyber security is more important than ever before. One of the most common methods criminals use to target internet users is phishing, particularly through email. Falling for a phishing scam can have serious consequences particularly for businesses, which means that understanding how these scams work and how to avoid them, is critically important in the modern workplace. In this article, we’re going to look at the best ways in which you can spot email phishing scams before they can do any harm, and how you can help ensure that they don’t become a problem.
The principal aim of phishing scams is to acquire sensitive information, which can be used for a variety of criminal activities, including gaining access to further data, accounts, and even stealing money. This is achieved by posing as a credible person or organisation, and tricking the recipient into divulging information such as passwords, other account credentials, and bank details.
Phishing can happen through many different types of media, including phone calls, texts, social media, web links and of course emails. Often, the scammer will pretend to be your bank, HMRC or a large trustworthy organisation such as Microsoft to trick you in to sending them your security details. These scammers will often mock up a website that looks like an authentic one, in which they will ask you to enter your information.
Thankfully, careful vigilance can protect you and your organisation from phishing scams completely. Unlike some cyber crime which can be almost unavoidable, such as ransomware attacks, phishing relies on you as a person being fooled - it cannot be successful without your cooperation. However, this does mean that cyber criminals choose to repeatedly engage in phishing campaigns because it is generally easier than complex hacking, so constant awareness is required.
There are a number of ways in which you can spot whether or not an email is genuine, and whether it might be a scam. Some of the checks you can perform on a suspicious looking email include the following:
Aside from the above, simply use your common sense. If you sense that something is off about an email you receive, then take steps to confirm it’s authentic. It’s always better to be cautious.
In addition to being able to spot a suspect email, there are a variety of ways that you can protect yourself and your organisation from the dangers of phishing. Some of the most widely used techniques include the following:
It also helps to keep abreast of any new well-known phishing scams that are in operation - there are a variety of resources available on the internet to help you with this.
The Introduction to Cyber Security course, offered by Virtual College, is an ideal starting point for keeping you and your organisation safe online, and goes into further detail about cyber crime such as phishing. Click here to find out more.