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How to Recognize Phishing and Keep It out of Your Small Business

Russell Nicolet

Phishing is becoming an increasingly common strategy for hackers looking to break into companies’ networks. Effective phishing scams can allow hackers to steal data, compromise networks, and obtain sensitive information. Do you know what phishing looks like and how to avoid it for your small business?

What Is Phishing?

Phishing is a scam that utilizes fraudulent emails, texts, or phone calls to convince people, including employees of small businesses, to give out private information that can then be used to access the company network. This social engineering attack aims to convince employees that they have received that communication from a legitimate source.

In reality, the communication comes from a hacker designed to either capture information like passwords or security question answers, get more information about a specific client, or convince the employee to download malware onto the company system.

How to Recognize Phishing Scams

How to Recognize Phishing and Keep It out of Your Small Business

Employees are the most vulnerable part of your organization’s security structure. With proper training, employees can learn to recognize and avoid potential scams. However, many organizations do not provide that essential training, which means that employees may struggle to keep up with changes as phishing scams grow increasingly more complex and sophisticated.

Fortunately, employees can learn several common signs to protect their organizations.

1. Poor Grammar, Spelling, or Sentence Structure

Phishing scams are often recognizable due to their poor language use. Some scammers are from other countries or do not speak English as a first language, meaning they may send out content with some grammatical or usage errors. Employees who receive those communications should exercise caution.

2. Unfamiliar Email Addresses

Often, phishers will try to mimic a common email address to convince the victims of their scams to respond. They might, for example, try to mimic the company’s domain but with minor errors.

Scammers may also use sites like Amazon or PayPal, which people already have a connection to and trust, to help them slip under the radar. Sometimes, the title of the email address may read like a normal email from that organization. Still, when you hover the cursor over it, it will show where it actually came from—typically, not the organization it claims.

3. Urgent Demands for Action

Phishers often heavily pressure people to respond quickly to their demands for information. A fast response means that employees do not have adequate time to think the request over.

During a phone call, for example, a scammer might issue an urgent reason why they need that information immediately. Employees might also receive emails that pressure them to take fast action to help solve a problem. For example, they might get an email claiming to be from the company’s IT department, asking them to log in on an unfamiliar platform, which the scammer will then use to log into the system.

4. Requests for Information Not Normally Shared via That Form

In many cases, scammers will ask for information that employees would not normally share. For example, they might ask directly for login credentials, or they might ask for information that would help them bypass security questions. In some cases, scammers will pressure employees to provide payment information directly. They might also seek information about customers, including things like private healthcare information or confirmation that the customer works for that specific organization.

5. Incorrect Links

Sometimes, employees may inadvertently click a link in an email, only to discover that it takes them to a website that does not look like it should. Sophisticated phishers may replicate the company website or a familiar website like the Amazon login page to convince employees to provide login credentials. However, looking at the link in the address bar will show that it is insecure. Further, it often contains the wrong address or a misspelling of the right address.

How to Keep Phishing Out of Your Small Business

It may seem impossible to keep phishing out of your small business entirely. However, you can take several important steps that can help protect against phishing scams.

1. Provide Employees With Regular Training on How to Spot Phishing Emails and Calls

Stay up to date on the latest scams and how they are likely to appear, and make sure that employees receive the training they need to identify those challenges as they appear.

Employees remain your first line of defense in a phishing attack, so it is critical to put a strong layer of protection in place that ensures that employees know how to spot and deal with those potential scams.

2. Make It Easy for Employees to Report Phishing Content

Even the savviest employee can make an error, resulting in a phishing attack getting through your security. An employee might mindlessly click on a link in an email or provide information to a caller who does a great job pretending to come from the organization directly. Make it easy for employees to report those errors or even potential phishing content when needed. Your security team can then quickly act to secure the network before the hacker can achieve his goals.

3. Share Information

Often, a hacker will attempt to target multiple members of the same organization simultaneously. With a wide spray, he has greater odds of finding an employee who will successfully provide the information he needs. By sharing information about current attacks with your employees, you can better prepare them to respond (or, better yet, avoid responding) to that content.

4. Avoid Sharing Personal Information About Employees Online

Russel Nicolet, founder & president of Nicolet Tech, Inc.

Pay attention to what your organization shares online. Personal information about employees can often help scammers work their way into the organization. Having a security professional review online profiles can make it easier to spot potential dangers.

Protecting your organization against phishing scams grows increasingly complicated as scammers become savvier. However, you can help prepare your organization to deal with those challenges with the right tools in place. Contact us today to learn more about our tech services and how they can help your organization.


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