It’s no secret that email phishing attacks continue to increase in complexity and frequency year over year. Hackers are employing more effective technology and methods, constantly honing their skills at crafting email campaigns that appear legitimate and safe. As a managed service provider (MSP), you’re a key defensive operator against these bad actors, and that means you must deploy email security solutions designed to prevent even the most sophisticated phishing attacks.
While you might already be training your clients’ employees on how to spot and avoid dangerous emails, many malicious communications will still make it through -- whether that be from human error or simple oversight. Training, while invaluable, is simply not enough to minimize the threat.
MSPs have to take additional steps to prevent a successful attack. It’s imperative that your IT business use a solution that includes phishing prevention designed to combat these modern, evolving threats. It also falls upon you, the IT provider, to study and follow the changing trends and make informed decisions about your cybersecurity stack that keep you both protected and profitable.
What is Phishing?
As a refresher, let’s remember that phishing attacks are carried out through electronic or email communications. They are a type of social engineering attack that is typically used to:
- Steal sensitive data for financial gain
- Install malware on devices and spread it throughout the network
- Target an organization’s secure or proprietary information, often for corporate espionage
- Leak sensitive government and military information
- Gain access to email accounts that will be used to carry out further attacks
Phishing represents the most common attack vectors in modern use. As of 2022, it’s reported that over 95% of malicious activities with the sole objective of gaining sensitive data take the form of email phishing. According to the FBI, email fraud and social engineering have led to more than two billion dollars in financial damages over the past two decades.
How Phishing Attacks Work
Phishing attacks are so popular among hackers because they’re inexpensive and easy to execute. Rather than targeting a specific company and spending time and resources researching them, phishing attacks are a broad, indiscriminate means of finding targets of opportunity.
Phishing is about casting a wide net, no pun intended. The malicious actors need only send out hundreds or thousands of emails and hope that one of the recipients clicks a link or responds to their request.
On the other hand, spear phishing attacks are more sophisticated and typically customized to match the intended target. Where a typical phishing attack is like laying out a minefield, spear phishing is a surgical strike on a specific target.
Hackers will search the Internet to find personal information about their targets and use that intel to create spear phishing emails that appear to be from a person or company that the target trusts.
Both phishing and spear phishing attacks typically create a sense of urgency and compel the victims to take immediate action. They will involve deadlines, missed payments, or alleged account closures to push the reader to rush to a conclusion. The hacker’s goal is to get the target to share their personal information, log in to spoof websites, or click a malware download.
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How to Detect Phishing Attacks
Before a phishing attempt can be thwarted, it has to be recognized. There are two elements involved here: technological and human. It’s a combination of each of these elements that provides the most comprehensive level of detection and security.
The right email security software is the first line of detection. Anti-phishing tools will compare inbound emails against known phishing attacks, as well as filter emails identified as suspicious or previously flagged. These solutions typically reference an ever-growing database of reported spam/threatening emails and will often use machine learning to detect patterns that are worth a second look.
Many tools use a tech called DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) for evaluating incoming emails against a database with a complete record of the senders. If an email does not conform with known information about the sender, the email is flagged or turned away.
Sophisticated email security systems work to block high-volume spam, dangerous links, and the majority of conventional phishing attacks. It’s more difficult to spot spear-phishing attacks with technology alone because spear phishing emails are unique to the target and often sent to a single inbox. This allows spear phishing emails to slip by scanning or traps that look for previously flagged phishing emails or specific language.
Advanced solutions like SpamTitan from TitanHQ use the most advanced technology to detect and prevent spear-phishing attacks. In the event a phishing email is still received and opened, the best email security tools will use additional measures to minimize damage by quarantining links and scanning for viruses.
8 Best Practices to Stop Phishing
Email Filtering and Anti-Phishing Protection
The typical MSP uses some form of traditional email security solutions that give you anti-spam and antivirus filters, but these measures are no longer enough. The most effective email tools will include specific anti-phishing measures that can stand against the more evolved types of attacks we see today.
Some of the most common detection techniques include domain spoofing checks, impersonation cross-references, and flagging of suspicious body content.
Keep Systems Up-To-Date and Use Patch Management Tools
Cybersecurity experts know that updates and patches are critical to maintaining a safe network. Even when malware is delivered by a phishing email, it’s weaknesses in the target systems that often allow the attack to proceed. One of your many responsibilities as an MSP is making sure individual users and clients are patched in a timely fashion. Patch management tools make it much easier to stay on top of updates when you’re managing a large number of clients and devices.
Encrypt Client Data in Motion and at Rest
Data encryption should be part of the modern MSP’s cybersecurity stack. By encrypting sensitive information, it becomes much harder for cybercriminals to make use of any data they gain access to. On top of that, many regulations require encryption to maintain compliance.
Always Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
MFA (or two-factor authentication, depending on the term used) adds an additional step to access so that even if bad actors get their hands on someone’s login credentials, they can’t make it all the way through the login process. Currently, MFA is able to prevent a large number of common attacks simply by cutting off needed access.
Maintain and Test Backups
Because 100% security doesn’t exist, IT providers must plan for recovery and remediation should an attack succeed. Backups and email archiving are essential for getting users back to work quickly by getting them access to the latest versions of unaffected files.
Offer Your Clients Email Security Training
Security awareness and anti-phishing training is still a necessary part of fighting social engineering attacks. Solutions like SafeTitan include an awareness and response element to equip employees with the knowledge to identify and avoid possible threats. Such high-end solutions use e-learning and phishing simulation to minimize the risk of human error or client missteps that can lead to disaster.
Use Top-Notch Email Security Tools
MSPs should choose the best security tools for their needs, and the needs of their clients. Balancing costs and features can be a challenge, but comprehensive tools like SpamTitan can fill many important security roles at an affordable price.
MSP Email Security Tools for Phishing Protection
A complete, proven email security solution is essential when it comes to protecting your clients from phishing. Each and every client should be guarded by an email anti-phishing tool that incorporates A.I.-powered threat detection, antivirus, and spam filtering.
Our solution, SpamTitan, is trusted by thousands of organizations worldwide to provide comprehensive protection against phishing, spear phishing, and other forms of email-based social media attacks.
Just as important are the training tools you choose to educate and inform your clients. SafeTitan by TitanHQ is purpose-built to empower your clients against even the most aggressive phishing scams.
Our solution uses behavioral-driven training to make the learning process effortless, and courses only take 8-10 minutes to complete to minimize the impact on productivity. Using videos, e-learning, simulated attacks, and quizzes, SafeTitan helps your clients maintain compliance while shoring up their defenses against the most common form of cyberattack out there.
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