How to Avoid Targeted "Spear Phishing" Attacks

How to Avoid Targeted "Spear Phishing" Attacks

How to Avoid Targeted "Spear Phishing" Attacks

If you have been on the lookout for tried ways to avoid targeted spear phishing attacks, you’ve arrived at your destination. Cyber Security is a key area of focus for all types of companies as protecting valuable, sensitive business data makes its way to the top of most business security priorities. However, it is also important to be aware that many cyber breaches such as spear phishing can start with internal weaknesses. Understanding how spear phishing occurs most often will provide you with the knowledge and tools to protect the security of your business data. 

How to Avoid Targeted "Spear Phishing" Attacks

What Are Spear Phishing Attacks?

Phishing attacks are one of the most common security threats faced by both individual users and companies while struggling to secure critical information. In spear phishing attacks, the attacker impersonates someone else using fake details, and tries to compel victims to leak sensitive information unknowingly. These spear phishing attacks are most commonly executed in electronic communications, typically emails, and these may impact both individuals as well as business corporations. 

Proven Ways to Avoid Spear Phishing Attacks

Here are 10 key ways you can learn how to avoid targeted spear phishing attacks.

  1. Be aware that the attacker is going to use your social network connections to get to you with spear phishing attacks.
    This is how Google was compromised in the past. Key employees are identified and their friends and connections on Facebook, Linkedin, etc. are targeted. If anyone has hundreds of social links the odds approach 100% that one of them protects their accounts with simple-to-guess passwords (abc123, 123456, password). Once those accounts are compromised messages are sent to the target from their friend's account making it highly likely that they will see the message, open it, and even click on a provided link.
  2. While you can exhort your employees not to fall for these spear phishing attacks, it is guaranteed that someone will eventually be tricked into clicking on a malicious link.
    This is why you must deploy content-URL filtering at your gateway to prevent spear phishing. This capability is bundled with most UTM devices and has become very cost-effective. They receive a constant stream of malicious URLs through a subscription service and block access to them. So even if someone clicks on a known bad link they are blocked from accessing it and being subjected to a spear phishing attack. Most of these products also check the URL in real-time for malicious content and block that too.
  3. Spear phishing can be very sophisticated.
    The malicious URL can be completely unique, and the malware used can be new; as it was in the Google attacks. A gateway will not stop the spear phishing malware from getting in. Luckily that gateway also provides a second line of defense. Post-infection it will block access to the command-and-control servers that the infected machine will attempt to connect to. The alerts the UTM generates can help you detect a spear phishing attack and track down the offending machine/user and get it re-imaged.
  4. One of the more recent threats is the targeting of your financial team in an attempt to discover login credentials for your business accounts.
    You must find a bank that provides strong authentication to access those accounts, usually in the form of a one-time password token. And you must forbid your team from accessing those accounts from outside your network because there are banking Trojans designed to hijack a session and pilfer bank accounts while the authorized user is logged in.
    Today's spear phishing attacks do not stop with technology. Assailants can and will attempt to hire, bribe, or blackmail your people to infiltrate your organization.
  5. Not having encryption as a basis of your security strategy can allow any cybercriminal to attack sensitive company information.
    Data encryption needs to be the basis of your security strategy to prevent spear phishing. To protect sensitive company information from cyber criminals, you must treat encryption as an essential tool to cut down access to data by any unauthorized personnel. At least the attempts of a spear phishing attacker will be weakened if not completely ended.
  6. Multi-Factor Authentication is essential! Preach!
    Multi-factor authentication means having more than just a password to protect your confidential information. Rather you apply additional layers of security consisting of two or more steps, making it less likely for the spear phishing phisher to be able to attack your system.
  7. Security gaps in older software are an invite for Spear Phishing attacks, so use the latest security patches.
    Older and outdated software has several security gaps, which can allow viruses that are delivered via email to spread across your network. This is why both individuals and organizations need to use updated software that is capable of handling the latest security threats and spear phishing attacks.
  8. Make use of DMARC Technology to evaluate incoming mail.
    DMARC technology stands for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance technology, and its purpose is to evaluate incoming emails. DMARC evaluates these emails against a database that contains thorough details and records of the senders. Upon security evaluation for common threats such as spear phishing, if any email does not align with the sender records in the database, an email is automatically sent to notify the security team of a potential spear phishing attack.
  9. Arrange sessions and online security training for your team.
    Your team needs to be equally aware as you, if not more, of the risks and capabilities of cyber security threats such as spear phishing. To ensure that, you may arrange training to cope with spear phishing and general awareness sessions regarding cybercrime and online security threats. This will equip your workforce to be able to identify and mitigate spear phishing security threats while alerting the IT department.
  10. Back up user data in the cloud.
    In case of an unfortunately successful spear phishing attack, it is important to always have the latest versions of your files backed up in cloud-based solutions, so that you can quickly get back on your feet by accessing the uninfected versions after a spear phishing. This will help you in keeping your users productive even during the spear phishing attack.