Email phishing attacks: How to spot them and protect your business

Email phishing attacks are a constant threat, with approximately 3.4 billion malicious emails sent daily, targeting businesses of all sizes. These attacks are one of the most common causes of data breaches, which cost businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars per incident.

The good news is that with some awareness and simple practices, you and your employees can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to these attacks. And with National Email Week coming in the second week of June, it’s time to brush up on your email safety measures.

What is email phishing?

Have you ever gotten an email from your bank screaming about urgent account activity, or a message from a favorite store offering a discount so good it seems unreal? These could be phishing attempts trying to lure you in.

Phishing emails are social engineering scams that use trust, fear, rewards, and urgency to manipulate the recipient into taking a desired action. They often come disguised as messages from familiar sources such as banks, credit card companies, or even suppliers you do business with. The email might warn you about something scary (like suspicious activity on your bank account) or dangle a tempting reward (an unbelievable discount) before you. 

No matter the tactic, interacting with the email can lead to a full-scale breach. The email may trick you into divulging your login information, clicking on malicious links, or authorizing fraudulent transactions. In the worst case, the email may contain malware-laced attachments that can do anything from spying on your online activities to fully encrypting your entire network. 

How to spot a phishing email

Phishing emails can be sophisticated, but there are red flags to watch out for:

  • Urgency and threats: Phishing emails often pressure you to act immediately with phrases like “URGENT ACTION REQUIRED” or “Account suspended – verify now!” Such tactics are beneath legitimate companies.
  • Poor grammar and spelling: Typos and grammatical errors are a telltale sign of a phishing attempt. Professional organizations take pains to communicate clearly.
  • Unfamiliar greetings: The use of generic greetings like “Dear Customer” instead of your name could be a sign of a mass phishing email campaign. Legitimate companies will typically use the information they have on file and address you directly. 
  • Suspicious addresses: Carefully scrutinize the email address of the sender. Phishing emails often use addresses similar to those of legitimate companies, with slight variations in spelling or the domain name.
  • Requests for personal information: Legitimate companies will never ask for sensitive information such as passwords, credit card numbers, and financial records via email.
  • Suspicious attachments or links: Never click on links or attachments in unsolicited emails from someone you don’t know. To check a link’s true destination, hover your mouse over it to view its URL, and check if it matches what’s in the email text.

Protect your Seattle business

Here’s how you can safeguard your business from email phishing attacks:

  • Employee training: The most effective defense is an informed workforce, which is why you should train employees to recognize and avoid phishing threats. Training should include quarterly seminars on the latest phishing tactics as well as random phishing simulations to test your staff’s awareness. 
  • Implement strong password policies: To prevent hackers from gaining easy access to email accounts, encourage employees to set unique and long passwords (or passphrases). 
  • Enable multifactor authentication (MFA): MFA adds an extra step in the login process by requesting one-time verification codes and biometric scans in addition to passwords. This way, if a password is compromised, hackers still won’t be able to access the user’s email account unless they have the other authentication factors. 
  • Install security software: Enterprise-grade anti-malware, firewalls, and email security software are incredibly adept at detecting the latest phishing scams and can prevent them from ever reaching your employees’ inboxes. 
  • Report suspicious emails: If you or an employee receives a suspicious email, it should be immediately reported to your IT team. In fact, every email should be treated with scrutiny until its authenticity has been verified. 

Phishing scams are constantly evolving, which is why every business needs advanced security solutions and expertise on their side. Interplay is a trusted managed IT services provider that will make sure your email systems aren’t a point of weakness. From advanced security measures to comprehensive phishing awareness training, we can protect your business during National Email Week and beyond. For hands-on security and IT support for your Seattle business, contact us today.