Connect with our team of offensive security, AI security and pen testing experts at Black Hat Europe 2023. Learn More

Connect with our team of offensive security, AI security and pen testing experts at Black Hat Europe 2023. Learn More

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Final Cybersecurity Awareness Month Thoughts: Don't Get Hooked By a Phishing Email

We close out Cybersecurity Awareness Month for 2023 with a few final points that show that a company's security is a team sport, one in which everyone must participate.


As noted in Trustwave SpiderLabs recent report, 2023 Financial Services Sector Threat Landscape: Trustwave Threat Intelligence Briefing and Mitigation Strategies, phishing is one of the most effective methods attackers use to gain an initial foothold in financial services organizations. 


Using a persuasive and time-sensitive email, the attacker successfully convinces their victim to take specific actions, such as opening an attachment, clicking on an embedded URL, or following instructions to transfer funds to a purported "stranded CEO." 


However, this method's effectiveness is highly dependent on the quality of the lure, the writing style, and the contextual and grammatical clues given in the phishing email. These issues have often been the weakness of phishing attacks, particularly as security awareness training has continually taught personnel what to look for. 


These threat actors typically have a set series of goals: 


Credential theft: In this case, an attacker would email an invoice from a customer that includes a link. When the target clicks the link, it prompts that person for their password before "access is granted to the document." This results in the attacker gaining valuable credentials, which could be a steppingstone into the organization.


Malware insertion: This is usually accomplished via PowerShell scripts, JavaScript, and Macros.


Triggering action: An email purportedly from an organization's executive requesting an immediate wire transfer to solve an emergency, such as the CEO being stranded on a trip.


Recognize and Report Phishing


Since phishing emails, text messages, and phone calls are the primary methods through which data is compromised, that means it's important for everyone in an organization to be able to spot such emails.


An organization must teach all staffers to exercise caution when receiving unsolicited communications that request personal information. Avoid sharing sensitive information or login credentials unless absolutely necessary and be cautious of clicking on links or opening attachments from unknown sources. 


Email recipients must verify any request by contacting the individual or organization through a trusted channel. 


Most importantly, report any phishing attempts to the appropriate authorities or your IT department so they can tag the email and ensure additional attempts are stopped before they hit inboxes.


Update Software


While the defense against phishing attacks mainly rests with an organization's workers, another important aspect is primarily the responsibility of the IT team.


This job is to update the organization's software regularly. This action ensures that the latest security patches and updates are in place protecting the network against known vulnerabilities. Failure to make these updates can be catastrophic, as adversaries are well-versed in finding and exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities.


Patching is also the responsibility of an organization's workers. Many people use personal devices, such as smartphones or computers, for work, which must be kept up to date. 


If automatic updates are not enabled, make it a habit to manually check for updates. Keep your operating system, antivirus software, web browsers, and applications up to date to ensure optimal security.


Organizations that need more in-house ability to handle these tasks required to maintain security should consider partnering with a company with such expertise. A Managed Security Service (MSS) provider like Trustwave, with our Managed Detection and Response (MDR) solution, may provide the answer. 


MSSClick the Managed Security Services image above to get started down the path to great cybersecurity.

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