Phishing attacks have the potential to steal or destroy your valuable information assets or cause financial losses and can damage your reputation and customer trust.
People, process, and technology make an integral part of an organization’s structure, and unfortunately, ‘People’ could be the weakest link when it comes to cybersecurity. Phishing attacks come unannounced. Hence, it requires employees of organizations and individuals to be prepared to identify phishing emails and take appropriate action. However, you could still click on a phishing link unintentionally. Under such circumstances, it is better to be aware of the repercussions and the course of action to adopt to mitigate the risk. This article helps you understand a phishing attack and the preventive measures to avoid becoming a target.
Understanding A Phishing Attack
Cybercriminals employ innovative means to entice unsuspecting users to click a malicious link or an attachment in an unsolicited email, often by masquerading as a trusted person. When the recipient unknowingly opens such emails and clicks on malicious links, it may install malware, compromising their system. The compromise can result in data loss, ransomware attack, or system freeze.
Can You Get Phished By Clicking A Link?
Phishing attacks are a type of cyber attack in which criminals make use of email and text messages seemingly coming from a legitimate person or organisation. Opening a suspicious attachment or clicking on a phishing link from these messages can result in the installation of ransomware, malware, or spyware on your connected device.
The answer is ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, both!
Yes, if the email has been sent by adversaries by crafting a malicious link or URL in the email text. You can get phished by clicking a link if:
- You clicked the link or the attachment unknowingly, and it downloads a malicious attachment to your device.
- You clicked the link unknowingly and entered your confidential details or personal information.
- Your system does not have the latest antivirus or anti-malware installed or it is outdated, or your applications are not updated with the latest version.
And the answer is a ‘No’ if you have taken necessary preventive measures. Such as:
- Not clicking the malicious link or phishing link at all.
- Ignored or deleted the phishing email message without opening it at all, if you were able to detect it as a phishing email.
- If you had the latest antivirus or antimalware running, that flagged and blocked the email.
- You didn’t click the URL because you realized it’s a phishing email right away and reported it, either by marking it as a phishing email or spam in your inbox or by reporting it to your IT security team.
What if I clicked on a phishing scam?
As one clicks on a phishing link or opens a malicious attachment in the email, it results in installing ransomware or malware (e.g., viruses, spyware, etc.) on the user’s device. This goes undetected because phishing attacks are hard to detect and it happens in the background without the user noticing it.
Enterprises must try to prevent a phishing attack by deploying stringent control measures around the network but deal with it cautiously in case of an unfortunate event of an intrusion.
Aftermath Of A Phishing Attack: What To Do After You Click On A Phishing Link
Accidentally clicked on a phishing link in an email and are afraid of losing your credentials or valuable financial information? here is what you can do to protect your online account credentials and valuable information assets:
Do NOT enter any data: Be it personally identifiable information (PII), credentials, credit or debit card details, or any other confidential financial data, never enter any of such data on a phishing site that opens after you have clicked a suspicious link.
Disconnect the device from the Internet: If you are on a connected network (home or enterprise), the malware can spread from one affected device to other healthy devices. Hence, it is better to disconnect your device from the internet and prevent the malware from spreading on to other devices on your network.
Back-up everything that you can: Cyberattacks like ransomware prevent users from accessing their data on the infected devices connected to the internet. Hence, it is advisable to back up everything you can before all of your files are lost or encrypted.
Immediately Change your credentials: A data breach can result in compromising your credentials. Malicious actors can use the data and cause greater harm. One way of negating the effect of a data breach is to change your credentials immediately and opt for additional security measures like multi-factor authentication.
Most importantly, report it: Report the phishing attack to the IT Security team as it enables them to take timely actions and preventive measures and alert the other employees. At times, it may also be a compliance matter to report a breach to the law enforcement agencies or regulatory bodies. If you’re an individual, you can mark the email as ‘phishing email’ or as ‘spam’ by selecting the appropriate option in your inbox. You can also let your family members and friends know about it so that they are also aware and are safe from a similar phishing attempt.
Phishing Prevention: Cybersecurity Best Practices To Prevent Phishing Attacks
Effectively Detecting And Responding To Spam: It is imperative for individuals and organizations to install spam filters to detect unwanted emails based on specific words or patterns and divert them to a separate folder to reduce the risk of opening phishing emails and clicking on suspicious links.
Phishing Awareness & Education: Unsuspecting employees often click on malicious links or attachments and end up compromising confidential data. Hence, it is essential to impart phishing awareness training and education to employees and conduct phishing simulation exercises, as it can help reduce the risk of employees clicking on suspicious links, thereby protecting your network systems. Some of the key players in this domain are IBM, PhishingBox, Proofpoint, etc.
Using Anti-Phishing Solutions: Organizations can take adequate preventive steps such as installing robust antivirus and anti-phishing software solutions on their network systems. Besides, it is also essential to update these solutions from time to time as cybercriminals keep inventing innovative ways of infiltrating network systems.
Following Passwords Best Practices & Using MFA: Cybercriminals use sophisticated password-detection software to crack frequently used and weak passwords. Hence, effective cyber hygiene is possible only if you follow the best security practices like using robust and hard-to-guess passwords and enabling Multi-factor authentication (MFA) where the user has to enter additional information like answering secret questions, entering OTP (One-time Password) received on their registered smartphones, or even biometric authentication.
Blocklisting & Whitelisting: Another strategy to counter phishing attempts is to blocklist suspicious websites, IP addresses, and email addresses, whereby your system will not allow emails from these domains. At the same time, it is also advisable to whitelist genuine email addresses. While doing so, one should ensure to update and revise these lists frequently and report phishing attacks from a suspicious domain.
Cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility in an enterprise. Despite employing the most robust security measures, organizations and individuals can become the target of phishing attacks. Cyber adversaries keep improvising and introduce innovative ways of infiltrating network systems. Hence, employees must be aware of preventive measures they can take to avoid becoming a target of a phishing attack. It should help organizations and individuals to improve their cybersecurity posture considerably. Abusix Mail Intelligence can help you to keep suspicious and dangerous emails out of your inbox. Get in touch with us to learn how we can protect you against phishing and other security threats.