Business Owners Beware: Your Ultimate Guide to Phishing Scams


March 12, 2024

Whether you’re running a small business from your kitchen counter or a major multinational corporation, you face a myriad of cybersecurity threats every day. With a brilliant IT team or Managed Services Provider (MSP) on your side, you won’t even notice the majority of these threats. However, cyber-attacks are hitting with more tenacity and ferocity every year, and one of the most damaging among them is phishing. 

Globally, it is estimated that 90% of successful cyber attacks start with email phishing. Nearly 1.2% of all emails shared are malicious, which translates to 3.4 billion phishing emails daily. Zooming in on Australia, 94% of our country’s businesses experienced at least one email phishing attack in 2022. When we’re talking billions of daily phishing attempts and 94% of Aussie businesses being affected, it’s clear that the situation is dire. 

With this in mind, our resident IT experts have developed a comprehensive guide covering every detail business owners need to know about phishing attacks. Below, you will find a broad overview explaining the threat in simple terms. You’ll learn about how phishing has evolved, what variants to look out for, and how to protect your business. 

What Is A Phishing Attack?

A phishing attack is a fraudulent attempt to gain sensitive information – such as your login credentials, financial data, or personal details – by masquerading as trustworthy entities. These attacks commonly occur via email, with cybercriminals sending deceptive messages designed to lure recipients into clicking malicious links, downloading malware-infected attachments, or providing confidential information.

Phishing attacks can be devastating for businesses, with their effects including financial loss, damage to reputation, and legal ramifications. This is why it’s crucial for business owners to be proactive about these threats. If you take them seriously and regularly share information with your team, you can create a culture of cyber awareness in your organisation. Back this up with a powerful IT security strategy, regular employee training, and the tips below, and you’ll be well-placed to stay safe from phishing attacks.

The Rising Threat Posed By Phishing

Phishing attacks are on the rise, with CNBC reporting a 61% increase in the rate of phishing attacks since 2021. At the same time, cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated, employing an ever-increasing variety of phishing techniques to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information. 

For instance, more and more Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) based phishing campaigns have been targeting schools since December 2023. These attacks target humans as the weak point in the cybersecurity chain with the aim of getting around the increased security created by MFA. This worrying statistic underscores the growing threat posed by phishing attacks and the importance of implementing robust cybersecurity measures to mitigate the risk.

Phishing Attacks Types

Understanding the different phishing attack types is crucial for effective prevention. In addition to the variants mentioned in the original post, here are some additional types of phishing attacks:

Email Phishing: This is the classic phishing variant that most people are quite used to seeing in their inboxes. The attacker will send an email that appears legitimate with the hope of tricking you into entering sensitive information. Whether you share this data in a reply email or on a website you access via the phishing email, the hacker will likely sell it or use it to gain access to your accounts.

Vishing: Short for “voice phishing,” this is when someone uses a phone call in an attempt to gain sensitive information. The attacker may pretend they are a trusted friend or relative, or they may claim to represent them.

Smishing: Similar to vishing, smishing involves using text messages to trick you into sharing personal information or clicking malicious links.

Spear phishing: The attacker pretends to be a known or trusted person to trick the target into sharing confidential information. The target, thinking they are interacting with someone they trust, may share sensitive information or perform actions that can harm them or their organisation. 

Search Engine Phishing: Cybercriminals create fake websites optimised for search engines to trick users into clicking on malicious links or providing sensitive information.

Social Media Phishing: Phishers leverage social media platforms to impersonate trusted individuals or organisations and solicit sensitive information from users.

Angler phishing: Common on social platforms like Discord, this attack style involves creating counterfeit accounts to reach out to unhappy users identified through social media posts or comments. The attacker, posing as support, asks for personal details under the guise of assistance and provides a link to supposedly resolve the issue. This link will, of course, carry malware. Angler phishing attacks can be particularly problematic for businesses that employ remote workers and freelancers who use their devices for both work and leisure activities. 

Wi-Fi phishing: Another problematic issue for businesses with remote employees, this attack is carried out by creating unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots in public places. Attackers will target areas where people commonly work outside of the office, including cafes, libraries, and other public spaces. 

Clone Phishing: Attackers replicate genuine emails from contacts you trust and resend them with harmful modifications. Some attackers use a similar but fake email, while more advanced cybercriminals will spoof the email address to make it seem as if it’s from a valid domain. 

HTTPS Phishing: This URL-based attack attempts to trick you into accessing a fake website. It used to be the case that you could rely on HTTPS sites to be safe as they require TSL/SSL certificates. However, hackers have done what hackers do and found a way around this. They can now add HTTPS to phishing sites, making it even more difficult to tell what’s safe and what’s not.

Pharming: Also known as DNS spoofing attacks, this phishing variant is one of the more technical ones. In the simplest possible terms, the cybercriminal will access a Domain Name Server (DNS) with the goal of redirecting URL entries to a fake website. When you type in a website address, your computer asks the DNS for directions. If hackers have tricked your DNS system, it will give your computer wrong directions, leading you to a fake website that looks like the real one. Once there, any information you enter can be stolen by the hackers. You may also end up inadvertently downloading malware. 

Whaling: Also known as CEO fraud, whaling targets high-profile individuals within an organisation, such as executives or senior management, to gain access to sensitive data or financial resources. Given its critical relevance to business owners, we’re crafting a dedicated article to delve deeper into this topic. Keep an eye on the Invotec Blog to ensure you don’t miss it. 

Business Email Compromise (BEC): This approach is like whaling with a twist. Instead of targeting the CEO or executive, the attackers mimic them or, in the worst cases, take control of their email accounts. The bad actor can then exploit this person’s authority to dispatch internal directives to subordinates.

By familiarising yourself with these phishing variants, you can better prepare your business to identify and thwart potential attacks.

How to Avoid Phishing Attacks and Protect Your Business

Protecting your business from phishing attacks is of paramount importance. Here are some steps you can take:

Email Security: Implement robust email security measures, including spam filters and antivirus programs that can detect and block phishing attempts.

Employee Training: Educate your employees about phishing attacks and how to identify them. Provide regular training sessions and simulated phishing exercises to reinforce best practices.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Use MFA to add extra security to all user accounts in your business, making it more difficult for attackers to gain unauthorised access.

Regular Software Updates: Keep all software current, and make sure you approve all the latest security patches and updates. This is the best way to address vulnerabilities that could otherwise be exploited through phishing attacks.

Endpoint Security: Protect all endpoints – including laptops, desktops, smartphones, and tablets – with robust security solutions to prevent malware infections and unauthorised access. Understand that endpoint security extends to the devices used by remote workers and freelancers. For more information on how to ensure robust security with a remote workforce, visit our article covering all the essential cybersecurity practices for remote and hybrid workers

Incident Response Plan: Develop and regularly update an incident response plan to outline the steps to take in the event of a phishing attack, including containment, investigation, and recovery.

Vendor Security Assessment: Ensure all vendors you work with follow robust security practices and implement measures to reduce your risk of falling victim to supply chain attacks.

By implementing these proactive measures, you can significantly reduce your risk of becoming a phishing attack victim.

Securing Your Business in the Age of Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks pose a formidable risk to businesses. However, by understanding the various types of attacks and deploying strong security measures, you can significantly mitigate this risk. It’s crucial to stay alert, educate your team, and keep your security protocols up-to-date to shield your business from these cyber threats. Remember, investing in cybersecurity isn’t just about fending off pesky attackers – it’s about ensuring the long-term success and resilience of your organisation.

This is the ethos we operate by at Invotec, delivering IT solutions that do more than just protect our clients’ data. From cybersecurity to business continuity, we offer completely customisable packages designed to help you stay safe and achieve your business goals. We believe in delivering nothing short of top-tier service, so if you have any questions at all, please feel free to reach out to us today. Together, we can fortify your IT security and create a strong foundation for consistent business growth. 

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