Designed specifically to spoof people in to divulging potentially sensitive data, phishing attacks continue to enjoy success, despite the fact that most people know they exist. This raises the question, why are they still successful? To answer that question, we’ll need to take a look at what makes phishing attacks—such as the zero day exploit—effective and determine how to better protect ourselves from them.
Understanding Phishing Attacks: Cybercriminals pass themselves off as people we trust to trick us into divulging usernames, passwords, or financial data. Yes, technology does play a role in this. However, the true weak link is — people.
Emotional Manipulation: Phishing perpetrators craft messages that evoke strong emotions, such as an urgency to prevent account closure, fear of security breaches, or curiosity about winning prizes. By manipulating our emotions, they cloud our judgment and spur us into taking hasty actions without considering the consequences.
Social Engineering: Humans are inherently social beings, and cybercriminals exploit this aspect of our nature. Phishers often leverage social engineering techniques, such as impersonating friends, colleagues, or trusted organizations. They exploit our inherent trust in these connections to deceive us into revealing sensitive information. When we receive an email seemingly from someone we know or an organization we trust, our guard is naturally lowered.
Lack of Security Awareness: A lack of, or a failure to respect security awareness makes the work of phishers easy to accomplish. A lot of people simply aren’t wary enough when it comes to the different phishing techniques. They also seem to not know how to spot suspicious emails, nor do they seem to get the importance of strong passwords. This makes it easier to deceive people and slip past security measures.
Exploiting Vulnerable IT Infrastructure: Zero-day exploits take advantage of overlooked vulnerabilities Cybercriminals will use these openings to set off an attack before they are patched or fixed. Zero-day exploits can be used to bypass security efforts and plant malware. Pairing a zero-day exploit with emotional manipulation, attackers can easily set up a play reliant upon the triggering of a sense of urgency to accomplish their goals
Protecting Ourselves: The good news is there are things we can do to stop phishers.
Education and Awareness: Consistently educating your organization and anyone else who has access to your system about what to watch out for can help mitigate the risks.
Vigilance and Verification: Develop a habit of verifying the legitimacy of emails or messages before responding or clicking on any links. Always look twice at email addresses before clicking links the messages may contain. Look out for unusual spellings, errors in grammar and be especially wary of any communications that try to get you to do things in a hurry.
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Enabling MFA adds an extra layer of security to our accounts by requiring multiple forms of identification. Even if phishers manage to obtain our passwords, MFA can prevent them from gaining unauthorized access.
Cybersecurity Software: Installing quality cybersecurity software and keeping it updated can provide a measure of protection against phishing attacks. The best of these feature email filters and browser protection to help identify and block phishing attempts.
Still though, even the best cybersecurity software can be rendered ineffective if we aren’t vigilant. Exploiting human emotions, social engineering and perceived authority, phishing attacks dupe people into providing sensitive data. However, by enhancing our security awareness, practicing vigilance, and leveraging technological safeguards, we can reduce the effectiveness of these attacks.