A company’s data is its most precious commodity. Hackers are finding inventive ways to breach the most secure networks. What is the best defense? Business owners need to educate themselves about digital phishing, learn from others’ miscalculations and implement solutions to avoid exposing important information.

Defining Digital Phishing

According to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, phishing uses email or fraudulent websites to gather personal information from a business by pretending to pose as a trusted individual or company. The goal of a phishing attack is to trick the recipient into revealing sensitive data like Social Security numbers, account information or login credentials. The request comes from a familiar source (bank or credit card company used by the recipient), but the requesting website is not legitimate.

Here are ways a person or business is vulnerable to a breach:

Session Hijacking: Hackers monitor a user’s activity until he or she types in credentials to a key account (i.e. accessing a bank or credit company). The software tracks the login information and the hacker will conduct unauthorized transactions on various accounts.

Content-Injection Phishing: Spammers inject malicious content within a website. This will cause users to access phishing software to access illegitimate content within the site.

Web Trojans: These are invisible to the user. They pop up when a person tries log in credentials to access an account. The Trojan records this information and transmits it to the phisher.

Screenloggers: Software is used to monitor keystrokes on your computer and transmit relevant data to the hacker.

SMSishing: A hacker will send you a text message on your phone asking for personal information. Since it seems the request is from a legitimate source, you are apt to respond with key credentials. LifeLock offers more information on this kind of phishing and safeguards to protect yourself.

Malware-Based Phishing: This type of phishing involves running malicious software on a user’s computer. It is sent via a fraudulent email with a corrupt attachment. Companies that fail to update software are at most risk from this hacking.

A Warning Sign to Others

With new ways to transfer money or pay for services, more data is compromised via phishing. Recent statistics show Apple suffers more phishing attacks than any other company. With a large online user base and conveniences like Apple Pay, consumers are fooled into giving up credentials. Recent attacks centered on Walmart, where individuals were sent emails thanking customers for an order and asking consumers to click on a particular link. As a result, vital personal information was exposed. Hackers also targeted the energy industry with malicious emails containing malware and downloaded sensitive data.

Practical Solutions to Prevent a Breach

What solutions should companies employ to protect themselves from a phishing attack?

Educate employees on phishing. Encourage employees to treat every email from an unknown sender with suspicion and don’t download attachments. When off-site with company devices, try to use a secure network to access information.

Be suspicious of emails asking for personal information. It is best not to reveal personal information to an unknown sender.

Don’t click on links embedded in another email which comes from a financial institution.

Keep browser and operating systems current. Don’t neglect any software updates.

Encrypt data and always use firewall software.

Businesses need to protect their data at all costs. As hackers become savvier, businesses must enact measures to outsmart these thieves.

By Kar

Dr. Kar works in the interface of digital transformation and data science. Professionally a professor in one of the top B-Schools of Asia and an alumni of XLRI, he has extensive experience in teaching, training, consultancy and research in reputed institutes. He is a regular contributor of Business Fundas and a frequent author in research platforms. He is widely cited as a researcher. Note: The articles authored in this blog are his personal views and does not reflect that of his affiliations.

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