In our earlier article, we discussed tips on practicing basic cyber hygiene.  One of the most common attack methods mentioned in that article was phishing.  This article will discuss the importance of being aware of text messages, emails, or chat boxes that come from someone you do not know or were not expecting.  Phishing has been a staple in the cybersecurity threat landscape for decades. That means that phishing is one of the most dangerous activities to an organization’s cybersecurity health. As a result, the need for proper anti-phishing hygiene and best practices is an absolute must.

With that in mind, here are a few quick best practices and tips for dealing with phishing threats. Think before you click on any suspicious emails, links, or attachments.

Know the Red Flags

Phishes are masters of making their content and interactions appealing. From content design to language, it can be difficult to discern whether the content is genuine or a potential threat, which is why it is so important to know the red flags. Awkward and unusual formatting, overly explicit call-outs to click a hyperlink or open an attachment, and subject lines that create a sense of urgency, are all indicators that the content you received could be a potential phishing attack and should be handled with caution.

Verify the Source

Phishing content comes in a variety of ways however, many phishes will try to impersonate someone you may already know – such as a colleague, service provider, or friend – as a way to trick you into believing their malicious content is actually trustworthy. Don’t fall for it. If you sense any red flags that something may be out of place or unusual, reach out directly to the individual through a different method (for example, if the potential phish was an email, call the person instead) to confirm whether the content is authentic and safe. If not, break off communication immediately and flag the incident through the proper channels.

Be Aware of Vishing and Other Phishing Offshoots

As more digital natives have come online and greater awareness has been spread about phishing, bad actors have begun to diversify their phishing efforts beyond traditional email. For example, voice phishing, or vishing, has become a primary alternative for bad actors looking to gain sensitive information from unsuspecting individuals. Similar to conventional phishing, vishing is typically executed by individuals posing as a legitimate organization such as a healthcare provider or insurer and asking for sensitive information. Simply put, it is imperative that individuals be wary of any sort of communication that asks for personal information whether it be via email, phone, or chat, especially if the communication is unexpected. If anything seems suspicious, again, break off the interaction immediately and contact the company directly to confirm the veracity of the communications.

Phishing may be “one of the oldest tricks in the book,” but it is still incredibly effective. And although it may be hard to spot when you may be in the midst of a phishing attempt, by exercising caution and deploying these few fundamentals, individuals and organizations more broadly can drastically mitigate the chances of falling victim to a phishing attack.

*Adapted from content provided by the National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCA). Vandeventer Black is an authorized NCA Cybersecurity Champion for their 2021 campaign “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.”