How to Properly Train Your Staff to Avoid Phishing Attacks


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In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Bell telephone companies were making money off of offering the ability to call your friends and family that lived outside your predefined region, charging up to $2 per minute (during peak hours) for long distance calls. Some people decided to combat this costly system by reverse engineering the system of tones used to route long-distance calls, thus routing their own calls without the massive per-minute charges demanded by long-distance providers. This was the start of something we wish we all could have avoided. These people were called Phreakers, and they were, in effect, the first hackers. Cut to the modern day, most domestic long-distance telephone calls are free. Hackers today now thrive in digital environments, using tools and strategies that the average person has no idea about to get access to data. Why would they want data?And why do you need to properly train your staff to avoid phishing attacks?

What Motivates Hackers?

Of course, the motivation varies from hacker to hacker, but there are only a few things they can come away with. They can come out of a successful hack with leverage over a computing system in multiple ways. They occasionally can steal money, but most of today’s hackers are looking for data to mine. This is because the insatiable need (and abundance) of data can fetch a savvy hacker a pretty penny on the dark web. Either that, or they can then use that data in a ransomware attack against you, making you pay a series of funds to them in order to get it back.

No matter what their motivation is, to successfully hack a computing system, they need access. The network security tools that most businesses have in place, if properly updated, is typically enough to keep hackers out of your network. Especially if you are using managed services to keep your network safer. This reality has spiked the popularity of social engineering attacks such as phishing. If they can’t get into your network and infrastructure though software or through straight network hacks, they need to gain access through deception.

What Exactly is Phishing?

Phishing is exactly what the name implies. The hacker baits a hook (of sorts) by way of messages directly to end users. This can be through any communications method available. Email phishing is the most prevalent for businesses, but phishing attempts through the telephone, social media accounts, and even instant messaging services have grown in popularity. This is why it is important your employees know about phishing, what it looks like, and where it can come from.

The phishing message will either lead you to a fake page that will collect personal information, or in the form of an attachment that will download malware on a system. Once the malware is in, it will immediately find credentials and other noteworthy data, and in a couple mouse clicks, your company’s network and infrastructure are exposed. You do not want to respond or click on these messages at all.

Some real nasty strains of malware (called ransomware) will encrypt your system files and then provide you with a message effectively holding your system’s (or worse yet, your business’) data for ransom. Failure to pay in the time provided will erase all the data and cause irreparable harm to your business.

Training Your Employees to Avoid Phishing Attacks

Kaspersky Lab said that they detected 482.5 million phishing redirects in total in 2018, effectively doubling the amount found in 2017. That’s a dubious trend that doesn’t seem to be altering course any time soon. As a result, training your employees in how phishing attacks are successful is imperative. How you go about successfully doing that, and how you keep them up to date on what threats are currently making problems for people can be difficult. We are here to help you in guiding your phishing education to both yourself and your employees with some secure steps.

Some suggest that embedded training, that is the training done in the normal course of business, is completely ineffective at mitigating phishing attacks. While it is our position that any training is better than no training, We suggest proactive training. That is heightening their awareness to the threats that are out there. Phishing, in particular, is a hack that many people are exposed to daily, so there are some very specific things that they should get to understand to be better prepared if they do encounter a phishing attack. They include:

  1. What Phishing Is – Clearly define what phishing is and what forms of phishing they will likely come across. Creating a document on it for employees to look back to is helpful.
  2. What Email Address Spoofing Is – The way we like to explain it is it’s like robocalls that look like they are coming from a local number, but when you answer it is a party on the other end just spoofing local numbers. It’s easy to spoof email addresses in the same way.
  3. Phishing Subject Lines are Typically Aggressive – Whether they are enticing or threatening, phishing email subject lines almost always stand out. Once opened they typically continue that tone, manipulating users into making mistakes.
  4. Phishing Isn’t Always Obvious – Today, there are spear phishing tactics that use publicly-available information to target individuals within your company, such as making the email seem like it’s from your boss. Show the different kinds of examples, including subtle ones.
  5. Phishing Uses Links and Attachments – Typically, just opening a phishing email won’t hurt you. It’s when you click on a link inside the phishing email/message or go to download an attachment from the email that you are in serious trouble. Teaching your staff to be wary of any attachment or link that they don’t know is important.

These are just the basics. Phishing can completely devastate your business, so if you are looking to put together a comprehensive training plan for your staff, reach out to the IT professionals at Symmetric IT Group. We can help you come up with a plan to get your staff the knowledge they need to keep your business safe and running efficiently. To learn more call us today at (813) 749-0895 and check out our other blogs on the topic of phishing as well as our information security page for more tips.


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