Social engineering attacks continue to target businesses and individuals in droves. And while many of them remain untouched in the spam folder, successful attacks continue to make headlines every day. What makes these scams so effective is that they take advantage of human ignorance rather than technology itself. Based on how successful this approach is, it is safe to say employees are usually the weakest link in any cybersecurity strategy.
Your employees are one of your most important corporate assets. But if they are not equipped to recognize and deal with scams, they can also become the biggest threat to your business. After all, it takes mere seconds to download a malicious attachment or click a malicious link. That is why every business needs an ongoing employee training program that helps raise awareness on the newest threats targeting your organization.
With that in mind, let us explore some of the most pervasive phishing trends in the world of IT security today:
Evasion Is Driving More Effective Phishing Scams
Phishing attacks are largely about duping unsuspecting users into taking a desired action, such as downloading malware or giving away confidential information like login credentials or payment data. However, that is not the whole story. Hackers have more tricks up their sleeves than ever before, and that means phishing scams are becoming more advanced.
From a victim’s perspective, not much has changed. Phishing scams still rely on things like fake login forms, malicious software, and personalized messages crafted to build a sense of trust. Although software developers have tried to create solutions to detect these techniques, hackers have gotten better at evading conventional security controls, such as antivirus and firewalls.
One such technique substitutes characters in a web address with others that look identical but are actually different letters. For example, the letter ‘a’ looks identical in both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets, but they have different character encodings. That means a scammer could send you a link that looks like bankofamerica.com, but really leads you somewhere dangerous.
Automation Is Helping Scammers Better Personalize Attacks
The most basic phishing scams are sent en-masse to thousands of potential victims without any attempt to build trust through personalized messages. Few such scams ever make it past the spam filters, but there is now a deeply worrying trend of more personalized (and vastly more effective) attacks.
Previously, smarter scammers would rely on collecting information about potential victims that was publicly available on social networks like LinkedIn or Facebook. Today, automation technology is being used to gather user data from a wider range of sources to craft more authentic-looking phishing emails.
For example, a scammer might first conduct an attack that intercepts corporate emails to gather information about potential victims, such as employee actions, customer histories, or business partnerships. Database breaches may also allow hackers to gain access to information about possible victims, which they’ll then use to craft believable scam emails and instant messages. That’s why businesses now need more sophisticated tools for identifying attempts at impersonation.
How Proper Awareness Training Is Your First Line of Defense
A secure IT department has a combination of modern, tried and tested technology and staff who are adept at identifying phishing scams themselves. However, while having the right technology on your side is paramount to your business’s safety, it is only ever going to be as effective at dealing with threats as your employees are at using it.
Since social engineering is more about targeting vulnerabilities in people rather than technology, and the variety of threats is diversifying and evolving all the time, every organization needs an ongoing employee training program. No matter your technology, your employees will always be on the front line, and it is imperative that they know how to identify threats and what to do when they notice any kind of suspicious activity.
At Athens Micro, our goal is to safeguard your company’s critical assets, and that starts with building a strong cybersecurity foundation. If you’re interested in learning more about our best-in-class security solutions, speak to one of our experts today for an assessment.