Cyberthreats are becoming increasingly sophisticated and companies that aren’t effectively mitigating risks are sitting ducks for cybercriminals. In previous articles, we’ve shared tips on recognizing and recovering from account takeovers and improving data security with strong business continuity planning. In this month’s article, we explain how to manage the risks of spear phishing attacks.
A highly targeted form of phishing, spear phishing is behind the majority of successful data breaches. Hackers begin by researching specific individuals who have access to the information or credentials they’re seeking. Then, they create a convincing email that appears to be sent from a trusted source.
If employees aren’t prepared to immediately recognize and report a spear phishing attack, they could unknowingly compromise your entire system. With advanced hacking techniques, it could take only one click for employees to infect their workstations with malware and compromise your network. Once hackers gain remote access to one of your company’s computers, they can log keystrokes, access the webcam and microphone, download additional malware, and even gain administrator access to your whole network.
Frequent Employee Training Is Your First Line of Defense
Employees who aren’t required to complete a regular, high-quality security awareness training are easy targets for spear phishers. Employee security trainings should drill key points, such as never releasing sensitive information via email and exercising caution when emails prompt the recipient to click on links or open attachments.
Your company’s training also should cover the risks posed by social engineering, which is when cybercriminals harvest personal information from social media accounts to use in spear phishing attempts. Hackers frequently use publicly posted information to gather information on a target’s trusted contacts, such as a family member or colleague, which they use to make the spear phishing email appear as though it is legitimate.
To be most effective, employee security trainings should occur at regular intervals, rather than annually, to keep critical security protocols at the forefront of employee’s minds.
Put Your Employees to the Test with Phishing Simulations
Testing your employees with simulated spear phishing emails is the only way to assess if your security training is working and determine the extent of your risk exposure.
An experienced IT security consultant like TeamLogic IT can help you set up a spear phishing testing campaign to tell you exactly which employees are prone to clicking on suspicious emails. Then, the consultant can help you remediate any security skill deficiencies with targeted, web-based training.
Spear phishing testing should happen frequently so employees stay in the habit of being alert. Once your employees know they will receive regular surprise tests and have their performance compared to their colleagues, their behavior begins to change. As a result of regular testing, employees typically become more likely to stop and think critically about an email before clicking on a link or responding with sensitive information.
Rather than waiting for an inevitable spear phishing attack to happen, mitigate your security risks now with frequent security training and targeted phishing testing. Doing so will help your company cultivate a culture of polite caution when responding to requests for data.
Of course, strong security practices take a multi-layer approach. Now that you know the basics of reducing your spear phishing exposure, check back next month for TeamLogic IT’s overview of using multi-factor authentication to protect your data.
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