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You may have heard of phishing, but do you know how these attacks impact businesses or how to spot them? Phishing is a well-known cyberattack method often conducted through email correspondence. These attacks are on the rise and growing more sophisticated with each passing year. In fact, the rate of phishing attacks increased by 61 percent in the six months ending October 2022 compared to the previous year. Attacks are also growing more skilled, often including a second attack vector like a text message or voicemail to appear more convincing.

Phishing attacks represent a significant risk for businesses as they often lead to bigger, more costly attacks. By learning more about phishing attacks, you can help educate your employees and avoid falling victim to expensive breaches and cyberattacks.

What Is Phishing?

While phishing can technically be any form of deceptive contact, email has long been the predominant vector. A phishing email is a misleading correspondence designed to trick the recipient into sharing sensitive information or completing an action that could threaten the security of a network. Phishing often leads to more extensive attacks like ransomware, distributed denial of service (DDoS), or a data breach. Compared to other entry attacks, phishing leads to the most costly breaches, with an average of $4.91 million in costs for responding organizations.

5 Ways to Identify a Phishing Email

Phishing emails are designed to mimic legitimate communication from a sender pretending to be a known contact. Often, the email will appear to come from within the company, and the sender may even claim to be a supervisor or company leader. However, certain indicators can help you identify phishing emails.

1. A Suspicious “From” Address

In the body of a phishing email, the sender will likely claim to be someone the user knows. However, the “from” address may tell a different story. Unless the hacker compromised a legitimate email account, they must use a false sender address. To make the email appear legitimate, the false address will mimic the real one as closely as possible. Watch for minor misspellings and the use of a public domain (like Gmail) instead of a corporate email address.

2. Request for Personal Information

Phishing emails always have a goal. The intended victim often serves as an entry point into the network.

Modern cyberattacks are often carried out discreetly over an extended period of time. This “slow and low” approach allows hackers to move through the network undetected to reach an objective with a big payoff. Phishing emails launch these attacks to retrieve personal information or login credentials from a network user.

To appear legitimate, the email will use some type of story to request information. The most common example of this is a request to update account information.

3. Urgency

Phishing is designed to deceive human users into allowing attackers into a network that would otherwise be inaccessible. To achieve their goals, attackers often attempt to exploit human emotions with urgent or threatening language. When the victim is tricked into taking action quickly, they’re less likely to notice indicators of an attack.

Examples include:

  • A claim that suspicious activity has occurred on an existing account
  • A request to confirm personal or financial information
  • A letter that includes a fake order confirmation or invoice
  • A claim there’s a problem with account or payment information

4. Suspicious Links or Attachments

Links can be used to redirect users to a false webpage and downloads can include malware. For this reason, safe company download and information-sharing practices usually discourage using attachments or redirection through links. As a result, legitimate businesses are also unlikely to send emails with attachments you’re not expecting. Emails with unexpected links or attachments should be regarded as a red flag and recipients should contact the sender for verification.

5. Poor Spelling or Other Mistakes

Poor spelling can be used to spoof legitimate websites or sender domains. In some cases, it’s also the mistake it appears to be. Scammers from non-English speaking countries and backgrounds have limited ability to learn the language. As a result, phishing emails are more likely to contain grammatical and spelling errors.

Phishing emails are one of the easiest ways attackers can access a business network. They’re no longer obvious attempts to extort money or passwords from victims. Modern phishing attacks are sophisticated and difficult to detect. You can better protect your business by learning the signs of these attacks.

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