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What Is Phishing and How Can You Protect Your Business From an Attack?

Phishing isn’t done with a rod and a body of water. Instead of a freshly-caught dinner, it can lead to identity theft and financial loss. Unfortunately, these crimes are becoming all too common in today’s world. If you want to know more about phishing and how to protect your business, keep reading.

What Is Phishing?

Phishing is a form of cyber-attack that targets unsuspecting individuals in order to gain access to sensitive information like passwords or credit card numbers. Phishers use emails, texts, or social media messages with malicious links to fool victims into clicking on them and handing over personal details. Emails come in the guise of legitimate organizations, while suspicious texts and social media messages may seemingly be coming from trusted contacts. Be aware of this type of attack – It is more common than you might expect. In fact, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that people lost $57 million in one year due to phishing schemes.

Questions to Ask About Suspicious Messages

The scammers often send links for recipients to click on within their messages. They are of course designed to look very convincing, but there are ways to determine if you are getting contacted by a phishing scheme. Asking yourself these questions when you receive suspicious messages will help you determine whether it is legitimate or not.

  • Do you recognize the sender? Does the domain of the email look strange, maybe even misspelled? If they are posing as someone you know, would they send a message like that?
  • Who is the message sent to? Sometimes other people will be CC’d in the email – do you know them?
  • Was the email sent at a strange time of day that isn’t normal business hours?
  • Is the subject line strange? Is it related to the body of the email? Is it a reply to an email you never sent?
  • Before clicking any links, are they misspelled? Is the message empty except for a very long hyperlink?
  • Are there attachments that are unrelated to the email, like an invoice? Does the file type seem unsafe?
  • Is the sender directly asking for money? Are there misspellings in the writing that don’t make sense?
  • Are you being asked to confirm information?

All of these questions should inform you if the email looks suspicious. If you don’t think it is a legitimate email, never click on the links or attachments.

Other Tips to Protect Yourself From Phishing

To prevent your business from falling victim to a phishing scheme here are some additional tips:

  • Some computers and email systems already filter out spam and fake emails, but there are also additional software you can install to protect you even more.
  • Change your browser settings to block pop-ups from unreliable websites.
  • Hover your mouse over the link in the message. If it previews a different website than what it says, that is most likely a phishing email.
  • If you get an email from your bank or other subscription services, don’t click the links in the email. Instead, go directly to their website. Many phishing emails and texts say your account is overdue or ask you to confirm information and get your bank information. By checking your accounts directly, you are able to see if you are in fact past due.
  • If the scammer is posing as someone you know, call or text that person directly. A friend or family member can quickly tell you if they did send the email or if it was a phishing email.
  • Unless you know that the email is real, do not open attachments unless it is a .TXT file. It is the only truly safe file that cannot install malware onto your computer. Unfortunately .DOC and .PDF files can carry viruses.
  • Another way to keep your information safe is to use a VPN (virtual private network). VPNs mask your internet protocol (IP) address so your online actions are virtually untraceable. Most importantly, VPN services establish secure and encrypted connections to provide greater privacy than even a secured Wi-Fi hotspot.

Keep Your Business Safe From Phishing

Taking the extra steps now by being aware of how phishing emails work and how to identify them can help keep your business safe and protect you from potential scams. Empower yourself with knowledge and don’t be a target for cybercriminals. If you receive an email that looks even slightly suspicious, ask yourself critical questions such as: who is the sender; what do they want and why they are asking you; and if this request is typical or out of the ordinary. Additionally, be sure to always check the website URL before clicking on any links in emails, and never provide personal information via email. Learning these tips today will ensure tomorrow’s peace of mind when it comes to cyber security. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

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