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Can Phishing Emails Be Difficult to Detect?

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Can Phishing Emails Be Difficult to Detect?

About 15 billion spam messages traverse the internet every day, and many of them are phishing messages. One in 99 spam messages is a phishing email, and 30% of them are opened. Enterprise businesses often use Microsoft Office 365 email protection, but 25% of phishing messages can bypass Office 365 native security. These messages should never reach user inboxes, so businesses need extra email security to protect from phishing when Office 365 native security fails. The sophistication of phishing emails makes them challenging to detect.


Phishing is a Primary Attack Method for Data Breaches

A majority of data breaches start with a simple phishing email. Phishing strategies vary, with some targeted explicitly at high-privileged users within the organization, or they can use "spraying" to send malicious content to as many employees as possible. Although the overall strategies might differ, data breaches stemming from a successful phishing attack cost businesses millions yearly.

Any attack targeting employees is difficult to stop. Businesses rely on human detection, which is much more flawed than email security based on analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Attackers play on human emotion and craft phishing messages that convey a sense of urgency. The sense of urgency can interfere with training meant to detect phishing and social engineering. In some cases, the attacker gains access to an executive's email account. Business email compromise (BEC) further helps attackers trick employees into sending money, divulging their account credentials, or installing malware on their devices.

Microsoft Office 365 has protections, but businesses often get a false sense of security if they rely on it as the sole solution for email security. Because many enterprise businesses work with MS Office 365, today's phishing attacks target the platform's users. Various strategies allow attackers to bypass native Microsoft email security. Users with a false sense of security might assume suspicious messages are safe. These assumptions lead to a compromise and data breach of your systems.

Defend against phishing attacks with PhishTitan. Don't rely solely on Office 365 – enhance your email security today.

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Features of a Phishing Email

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMT) found that phishing emails have specific features to trick users. Standard features should be included in security awareness training, but users should always be aware that threat authors change their tactics as they figure out what their old scripts look like. 

CMT found several standard features, including:

Mismatched sender: Usually, the sender claims to have one name, but the email account uses a different name. For example, the sender's email account might be named johnsmith@gmail.com, but the sender's signature uses marydoe@gmail.com. Free accounts are also familiar with phishing emails unless the sender's strategy is using a misspelled domain of a legitimate business.

Urgent elements: The body and subject line of the phishing email convey a sense of urgency. For example, the sender might tell the recipient that money must be transferred immediately. The sender will claim that he's an executive or someone with a title that can persuade the recipient to act quickly.

Credential requests: If the sender aims to steal credentials, the message is urgently appealing to send sensitive information to the sender. Credential theft often comes with a link to a malicious site. The site looks legitimate, and some sophisticated attacks use the same layout and design of an internal web application.

Offers too good to be true: To trick users into installing malware, a malicious sender might tell recipients that they could be the recipients of lotto winnings or free items. To receive the items, recipients must pay a small shipping fee. The shipping fee is monetary income for scammers targeting users for financial gains. In an enterprise situation, the recipient might receive a fake invoice asking for thousands of payments.

Features included in most phishing threats are highly effective at tricking users, and some users are aware of the tricks and still fall for a phishing scam. Once the user executes malicious software or divulges sensitive information, the targeted organization must initiate incident response and investigations and follow any compliance procedures required by law.


What Organizations Can Do to Help Employees

Organizations should focus on ways to remove human error from cybersecurity threats. Having Office 365 security enabled helps, but it should not be the sole solution for phishing protection. PhishTitan is an email filtering solution that blocks malicious messages from reaching user inboxes. Instead of relying on employees to detect a phishing email, PhishTitan uses heuristics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to stop malware, phishing, ransomware, spam, and any other email message that could harm your network environment.

Security awareness training helps, but it should be used as a failover should false negatives bypass email security and filtering. Practical solutions like PhishTitan have a low false negative rate. A standard false negative rate means fewer phishing email messages reach your employee inboxes, reducing human error. If a malicious email goes to an employee, employee awareness training will help employees detect it. Employees should know that false negatives happen, so do not rely solely on email filters to block phishing, malware, and spam.

PhishTitan, paired with SpamTitan, stops both phishing and spam messages. Phishing is often challenging to detect because it can be hidden as spam. Statements promising cash rewards or content that looks like an official site make it difficult for employees to identify legitimate messages. SpamTitan, coupled with PhishTitan, dramatically reduces the chance that any nuisance email or malicious email can reach the recipient's inbox.

Web filters are another excellent addition to email security. When users click a link in a phishing email, they are usually brought to a malicious website masquerading as an official business. Users enter their financial information or credentials into the site, and the sensitive data is sent to the threat actor. A web filtering solution blocks malicious domains from being accessed, so users learn they fell for a malicious message. Requesting access to a malicious site is recorded in security logs, and administrators are more aware of users accessing malicious domains.

To get started on protecting your business from malicious phishing emails, sign up for PhishTitan demo.
 

Defend against phishing attacks with PhishTitan. Don't rely solely on Office 365 – enhance your email security today.

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