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December, 2023 Edition
Hot Chocolate
Phishing is on the Rise
Recent research suggests that over 80% of businesses have seen an increase in phishing attempts. What is phishing? Phishing is a social engineering attempt to deceive people into giving up credentials or downloading malware. Ninety-six percent of phishing attempts use email. Voice (Vishing) and SMS or text (SMiShing) attempts are rising.

How does it work? You receive an email from a well-known brand or from what appears to be in-house. The subject line varies but usually suggests an action is needed. Subject lines like "Your recent purchase" or "Payment denied" are common. The email may look legitimate. You are encouraged to click a link once you open the email. The link might say, "Log in to your Amazon account for payment information." This email is easy to ignore if you have not made a recent Amazon purchase. Otherwise, the link is tempting. Clicking the link subjects you to a fraudulent login page where your credentials are at risk, or you may exposed to malware.

Attachments are another source of problems. Attachments like office documents and PDFs may contain scripts that can infect your computer and gather information. Do not open any attachments you are not expecting.

Spear phishing is a more specific approach. An attacker usually targets individuals where they know the person's position and the type of work they do. Social media accounts like LinkedIn often include this information. These attacks are more difficult to spot. Consider the following email.

Dear Bob,

I seem to have misplaced my server login credentials. Frank Jones, the head of IT, suggested I contact you for login details.

Thanks, you're a lifesaver,

Mary Collins
Risk Exposure Unit
Your Company

There may be several problems with this email. Does Mary Collins exist and work for the risk exposure unit? First, check the email address that the email is from. If you replied quickly, trying to help out a coworker, and the email address is fraudulent, you may be sending credentials to a criminal. Second, why doesn't the Head of IT take care of Mary's problem? Considering this example, you can see how people can fall prey to similar attacks.

How do we stop phishing attacks? Training everyone in the company to be cautious when opening emails creates awareness. Developing processes for handling emails and attachments guides people to beware of potential phishing attacks. Warn employees to be vigilant and teach them what to watch out for, and you reduce phishing risks.
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