Technology Blog

How to Ensure Your Employees Can Spot Phishing Emails

employee watching for phishing red flags

In the grand scheme of cyber threats, phishing emails are the old horror movie monsters that just won’t retire. They’re constantly reappearing with a new twist! Just as Dracula preys on the unsuspecting, so too do scams target unwitting employees who are unaware of phishing red flags.

Even major corporations are targeted—Yahoo was the most impersonated brand for phishing attacks during the fourth quarter of 2022, accounting for 20% of all phishing attempts.

But fear not! In this world of digital monsters, your employees are the Van Helsings, the crucial line of defense. Equipped with the right knowledge, they can slay these digital threats, keeping your business safe.

Phishing 101: What is Phishing?

Before delving into how to spot phishing red flags, let’s quickly define what phishing actually is. Phishing is a type of cyber attack where scammers send fraudulent emails that appear to be from legitimate sources to trick unsuspecting individuals into sharing sensitive information or installing malware on their devices.

The process usually unfolds in four stages.

1. Target Selection: The attacker identifies the victim, often a business or an individual within a business.

2. Preparation: The scammer crafts a convincing email, often mimicking the style of a trustworthy entity, and includes a malicious hyperlink, an infected attachment, or a fake login page.

3. Attack: The phishing email is sent. It’s typically designed to trigger an urgent response, pressuring the recipient to forget to assess the situation.

4. Exploitation: If the attack is successful, the attacker capitalizes by stealing personal data, deploying malware, or furthering the scam by impersonating the victim.

What Can Phishing Attacks Do to Your Business?

The impacts of phishing attacks on your business are like a vampire draining the life out of its victim. First, there are severe financial consequences for businesses, leading to direct losses from fraud, costs related to investigating and remediating the breach, and potential fines for non-compliance with data protection laws.

Beyond financial damage, these attacks can also inflict significant harm to a company’s reputation. Trust is a vital component of business relationships, and a single data breach can erode customer confidence, resulting in lost business. Plus, phishing attacks can result in identity theft, personal data being sold on the dark web, and further targeted attacks.

5 Most Common Phishing Red Flags

Now that we understand the potential consequences of phishing attacks, it’s time to equip your employees with the tools they need to spot these scams. Here are some of the most common phishing red flags to watch out for:

1. Urgent or Threatening Language

Phishing emails often use urgent or threatening language to create a sense of panic and pressure the recipient into taking immediate action. They may claim that there is an urgent problem with their account or that they will face severe consequences if they do not act quickly.

2. Suspicious Links or Attachments

Attachments and hyperlinks often serve as the primary tools in a phisher’s arsenal. They may contain malware, set to infect a system upon download or opening. Innocuous-looking hyperlinks may redirect to fake websites designed to capture sensitive information. It’s critical to verify the source and safety of all attachments and links before engaging.

3. Misspellings and Grammatical Errors

Legitimate companies generally have strict editing processes for their communications, so any misspellings or grammatical errors in emails should raise a phishing red flag. This includes suspicious email addresses and domain names.

4. Requests for Personal Information

Phishing scams often use social engineering tactics to trick individuals into sharing sensitive information such as login credentials, credit card numbers, or social security numbers. Be cautious of any emails requesting personal information, especially if they claim to be from a bank or government agency.

5. Impersonation of Trusted Entities

Scammers often impersonate well-known companies like banks, government agencies, and popular retailers in their phishing attempts. They may use company logos and branding to make the email appear legitimate.

Here’s What Your Employees Need to Know

To ensure your organization is fortified to catch phishing red flags, training your employees is crucial. Here are some best practices for effective employee education:

1. Accountability: Make it clear that everyone is responsible for recognizing and reporting potential phishing attacks.

2. Ongoing Training: Cyber threats are continually evolving, and so should your training. Regular, updated training sessions will help employees stay informed about the latest phishing tactics.

3. Simulated Phishing Exercises: These exercises provide employees with practical, hands-on experience.

4. Encouraging Open Communication: Encourage employees to report any suspicious emails they receive. This open communication can help your IT department react swiftly to potential attacks.

Protect Your Business With Mercer Bucks

At Mercer Bucks, we understand the importance of keeping your business safe from phishing red flags. Our network security solutions offer comprehensive protection against cyber attacks, including regular employee training and simulated phishing exercises.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help safeguard your business’s technology.