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What is Phishing? Everything You Need to Know

- Reading Time: 2 minutes

Errors are human! And cybercriminals have understood this all too well. They mostly manage to infiltrate information systems (even the most secure ones) by exploiting human vulnerabilities. Their secret weapon: phishing. So what is it? And above all, how can we guard against it? Find out the answers.

Phishing, the number one means of computer intrusion

Phishing is a technique aimed at facilitating the retrieval of personal data. 

Rather than exploiting IT security vulnerabilities, hackers prey on human vulnerabilities, which tend to be much more effective. Specifically, they masquerade as a trusted third party to coax their victims into revealing confidential information.

This method is commonly employed through the sending of an email. At first glimpse, this email seems to originate from a well-known organization or person. It could be the recipient’s bank, a courier service, a service provider, or even occasionally the company’s top executive (using the “CEO fraud” method).

There’s the logo, the name, the email address… everything is constructed to engender trust. Yet, this act of identity theft is merely a facade.

Because the ultimate aim is rather straightforward: to gather personal and confidential information. For instance, a “bank” might request a user’s banking details, or a company manager might solicit login credentials from their employees… Such personal information should never be shared via email.

Apart from data collection, the phishing email may also contain a link to click on. For instance, to track a parcel, to review account status, to access a video… With a single click, the phishing scheme is set into motion. It enables cybercriminals to penetrate the system, distributing their malware and inflicting damage.

Besides emails, cybercriminals can also deploy this tactic through counterfeit websites, fraudulent mobile apps, or even phone calls.

How to defend against phishing?

For 74% of companies that have fallen victim to a cyberattack, phishing represents the gateway for malicious hackers. Given the widespread use of this tactic, safeguarding against it is of paramount importance. This can be achieved through both employee education and the fortification of IT defenses.

Raising team awareness

Since phishing capitalizes on human mistakes, limiting these by educating teams about IT risks and specifically best practices is crucial. Key recommendations include:

  • Avoid sharing sensitive information via email;
  • Check the URL before clicking on it (simply hover your mouse over it without clicking to view it);
  • Employ complex passwords and update them regularly;
  • Scrutinize the sender’s email address (administrator.org.com rather than administrator.com);
  • Refrain from opening dubious attachments; etc.

Educational efforts can be supported by phishing simulations. This helps individuals comprehend cyber risks and the cunning of hackers.

Strengthening the security framework

While human error is inescapable, its impact can be mitigated with a robust technological arsenal. Among the vital safeguards are:

  • Firewalls: they scrutinize all network traffic. Any suspicious activity is promptly blocked.
  • Access restrictions: it’s feasible to limit network access and data sharing externally.
  • Regular updates: to ensure the highest level of security effectiveness.
  • Two-factor authentication: since passwords can be easily hacked, utilizing additional verification methods, such as receiving a code via email or SMS, is advisable.

Train in cybersecurity to diminish threats

If phishing is the primary avenue for cybercriminals, it doesn’t always succeed. Indeed, corporations with highly secure IT infrastructures are significantly less susceptible to these kinds of incursions. However, to safeguard their systems, they require specialists. And with the escalation in threats, such expertise remains in short supply. So, why not pursue training in this domain? With DataScientest, you’ll acquire the necessary skills to secure information systems and thereby reduce the consequences of phishing. Join us!

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