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All You Need to Know About Phishing Email Impersonation

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All You Need to Know About Phishing Email Impersonation

Email phishing is one of the most common cyber attacks and is probably one of the easiest ways for a hacker to gain access to your systems. Phishing emails are carefully crafted to look like they are from a trusted source, making them hard to spot. And once they've been opened, the damage can be extensive – from malware infections to data breaches and even financial loss.

For businesses, the stakes are even higher. Not only do they have to worry about the potential damage to their systems, but they also have to protect their customers' data. And with the rise of targeted attacks, businesses can no longer afford to be complacent about email security.

Don't be the next business to fall victim to a phishing attack. Protect yourself and your customers by training your employees to spot phishing emails and implementing the right security solutions.

Let's take a closer look at email phishing, how it works, and what you can do to protect your business.

 

What is Email Phishing?

A form of cyber attack, email phishing involves using fraudulent emails to trick users into revealing sensitive information or doing unauthorized actions. These emails are personalized, highly targeted, and meticulously crafted to look like they're from a trusted source.

Email phishing has been around almost as long as email itself, but the tactics used by attackers have become increasingly sophisticated. And with the rise of social engineering, email phishing has become very difficult to spot.

Attackers use social engineering to exploit human weaknesses, like the natural tendency to trust or the need for approval. By playing on these emotions, attackers can trick even the most security-savvy users into taking actions they wouldn't normally do. They often impersonate someone in a position of authority, like a CEO or senior manager. They also format the emails with logos and branding to make them look like they're from a legitimate company.

Email phishing attacks can have serious consequences for businesses. Not only can they lead to data breaches and financial loss, but they can also damage the business's reputation. Especially if customer data is involved, businesses can face heavy fines from regulators.

So how can you protect your business from email phishing attacks? The first step is to educate your employees about the dangers of phishing emails and how to spot them.

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How to Spot a Phishing Email?

Since phishing emails look like they're from a trusted source, they can be very convincing. But even a well-crafted email can have some tell-tale signs that it's not legitimate. The email address is the key that may give away a phishing email. Here are some things to look out for:

1- Typosquatting Domains:

These are domains similar to legitimate domains but with slight misspellings. For example, an attacker may use a domain like "noreply@amazaon.com" instead of "noreply@amazon.com." Most people would miss the slight difference in spelling, but it's a dead giveaway that the email is not from Amazon.

2- Sub-domain Spoofing:

With this tactic, attackers trick users into thinking that the email is from a trusted company using a splitting technique. For example, in "noreply@google.security.spammailer.com," the "google.security" part of the domain looks legitimate, but the actual domain is "spammailer.com."

3- Top-level Domain Spoofing:

This is a more sophisticated type of phishing where the domain and subdomain are legitimate or close to legitimate, but the top-level domain is different. For example, "noreply@support.microsoft.website" looks similar to "noreply@support.microsoft.com," but Microsoft may not own the .website top-level domain. This type of phishing crosses the spam and phishing filters more easily.

4- False Display Names:

When you receive an email, the first thing you see is the display name. This is the name that appears in the "From" field. Attackers tend to use the names of well-known companies or individuals to make their emails look more legitimate. If it's a more personalized attack, they may even use the name of your boss or a colleague. This type of phishing work on mobile devices where the sender's email address isn't shown by default, and people just see the display name on the first window.

Other than the email address, there are some common indicators in the email itself that may suggest it's a phishing email:

  • A common tactic is to create a fake sense of urgency or say that there's time-sensitive information in the email. This prompts people to take action without thinking about it.
  • Unexpected attachments or unknown links in the email are other red flags. If you're not expecting an attachment from the sender, don't download it. And if there's a link in the email, hover over it to see where it's actually taking you. The link may look legitimate at first glance, but when you hover over it, you may see it taking you to a completely different website.
  • Attackers ask to maintain confidentiality to prevent victims from discussing the email with others and potentially figuring out it's a scam. Phrases like "please keep this email confidential" or "for your eyes only" are also common in phishing emails.
  • Most professionals and businesses don't use free email servers like Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail for work-related communication. Though some legitimate businesses do use these services, it's still a red flag.

 

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How to Address An Email Phishing Attempt?

  1. If you think you've received a phishing email, don't panic. Report it to your IT or security team immediately. They can determine a real threat and take the appropriate steps to protect your organization.
  2. Phishing is a punishable offense by law. Some dedicated agencies, like the FBI, handle these types of complaints. You can report it to FTC or file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
  3. In addition, take steps to notify the people who may get impacted by the email. This includes colleagues or customers that may get attacked by similar emails.

 

How to Protect Your Business from Email Phishing Attacks?

The best way to protect your business from email phishing attacks is to take a multi-layered approach, including;

1- Technical Solutions

2- Employee Awareness and Training

Technical solutions include spam filters, authentication, and malware detection and prevention tools. But even with the best email security solution in place, there's always a chance that a sophisticated phishing email will make it through to your employees' inboxes. That's why user awareness and training are essential to complement technical solutions.

Employee awareness and training programs should cover topics like how to spot a phishing email, what to do if they receive one, and how to report it. These programs should be ongoing and updated regularly to reflect the latest trends in phishing attacks. Interactive approaches like simulated phishing attacks can be especially effective in driving home the importance of these topics. It's also important to have a process in place for responding to phishing attacks so that everyone knows what to do if one does make it through.

 

SafeTitan Security Awareness Training

SafeTitan is a comprehensive training program that covers all the bases when it comes to email phishing awareness and protection. Our SafeTitan Security Awareness Training platform includes everything from educational videos to interactive simulations and gamification. And our reporting and analytics tools give you the insights you need to further improve your employee's awareness and keep your business safe from email phishing attacks.

Book your free SafeTitan Demo today and speak with one of our product experts to see how our program can help your employees stay safe from email phishing attacks.

 

Sign up for a FREE Demo of SafeTitan to see how simulated phishing email impersonations work to add an additional layer of defense to your business.

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