Phishing Scams on the Rise – Businesses Must Adapt to Limit Risks

Cybersecurity risks for businesses of all sizes continue to grow. While some of these risks present new challenges created by innovative and adaptive criminals, others are classic scams and tactics that continue to succeed.

Phishing scams are one of the tried-and-true methods of deception that threat actors have been employing for decades.  Many organizations have implemented varying tactics to recognize phishing scams, but the effectiveness of some of these efforts is beginning to wane. Highlighting this ongoing risk, alongside the reasons why your business needs to adapt to accommodate the threat it poses, is an essential aspect of an effective cybersecurity planning and defense strategy.

What is Phishing?

Phishing is a commonly used term for an email scam. Any attempt to steal personal information or deliver malware through an email falls under this blanket term. Scammers target businesses and individuals with different tactics, often attempting to convince a victim to clink a link or divulge personal information through emotional ploys that trigger action.

We’ve all seen these emails, and most of us know to avoid them when they pop up in an inbox. Despite this, phishing scams continue to rise. Phishing was the top crime filed with the FBI’s complaint system in 2020, and business email compromises cost organizations nearly $2 billion, according the bureau’s annual Internet Crime Report.

Phishing Testing Losing Steam

Businesses have attempted varying security options over the years to help prevent and identify phishing scams within their networks. These efforts have helped to some degree, but statistics indicate that scammers show no signs of slowing down their attempts and are often a step or two ahead of established defenses.

Phishing testing is a tactic that once seemed to provide a heightened level of security to limit a business’s susceptibility to email fraud and its associated risks. This testing involves sending out fake scam emails to see how employees react and respond to them. IT departments or supervisors generate the imitated phishing emails, monitoring how staff members handle them once received. While this may sound like an attempt to focus on an employee’s bad habits or behaviors, when done correctly, it opens the possibility for increased awareness and a practice attempt at following any established protocols to deal with such a threat.

These phishing simulations have been a commonly used tool for organizations in the past and although they remain somewhat effective, it’s far from a blanket defense against email scams targeted at employees. If your business uses this training tactic, you need to understand that even though phishing testing can help encourage better employee behavior and serve as an education opportunity, threat actors are adapting, and you need to do so as well.

Email Remains Common Outlet for Communication

One reason why email scams continue to grow in the workplace, despite phishing testing and other security measures, is that email is the most common outlet for communication. Even with an understanding of the potential for a scam, employees can still be lax in their approach to business emails. They may think that because they are using a work email, heightened security measures are in place. This can create a false sense of security that makes them feel comfortable divulging sensitive information between peers or coworkers. Testing can spot this on occasion, but the simple fact that we all rely on email for regular communication means that email scams will continue to be a security risk.

Threat Actors are Evolving

Cybercrime is big business, and the threat actors perpetrating modern email scams are constantly evolving. Hacker networks are packed with individuals who have the skills, know-how, and experience to evade even the most sophisticated security defenses. You don’t have to look far to see a headline involving the latest big data breach affecting a major corporation.

Larger businesses may present a more lucrative incentive for a cyberattack, but if criminals can bust through more sophisticated defenses, striking a smaller organization can be a walk in the park. Businesses of all sizes will continue to be targeted, and as threat actors increase their abilities, the risk of email and other scams increase.

Technology is Evolving

More capable criminals with increased skills and abilities seem threatening enough, but on top of that, the technologies involved in cyberattacks are also evolving. Malware and other forms of malicious software that can infect a network via a phishing attack are more devasting than ever. Such software can be more challenging to locate, track, and eliminate while also being more effective at its intended purpose.

The evolution of cybercrime encompasses a wide range of technological advances. There is no doubt that criminals are more skilled than they used to be, but now with cutting-edge cyberweapons at their disposal, their capabilities are immense. Businesses must realize that they will always be playing catch-up to these nefarious technological advances and adapt increased cybersecurity measures right alongside.

Knowledge is Power

The beating heart of many organizations is a competent and capable team of employees. But this heart is also a glaring target for cybercriminals. They recognize that individuals represent a potential point of weakness that can allow them to enter a computer network and bypass defenses. Employees need to receive adequate training and ongoing education regarding cybersecurity. They must understand how crucial their habits and behavior can be toward ensuring the success of a defensive strategy.

Without adequate awareness of their role in a business’s overall cybersecurity, employees’ risky behavior and potential pitfalls will develop and can spell disaster. Knowledge is power, and every organization needs to put in the time and effort to equip employees with the required tools and awareness to limit the risk of cyberattacks.

Phishing testing can help limit risks to some degree, but organizations must realize that this should be only one facet of a multi-pronged approach to effective defensive measures. Education, awareness, and constant adaptation are all necessary elements to a modern cybersecurity approach for businesses of all sizes. Threats, new and old, will continue to evolve, and strengthening data breach planning and defense is a must for every organization.

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