No matter what approach or tool cybercriminals use to breach a network, they all have one thing in common: access. Compromised credentials are to blame as one of the most popular ways that adversaries penetrate a network, and the reason behind 61% of breaches today. Hackers can gain login information through a variety of methods, but phishing schemes remain the most tried and true. Organizations know this, yet they continue to fail at adequately protecting systems.
Phishing attacks are so successful because they rely on exploiting the common human element of trust. These attacks usually appear as a benign email message from a supposed colleague or leader within your organization. Sometimes, they can be from a recognized partner or end user. However, through the fog of a carefully crafted message, a cyber adversary eagerly waits for a target to fall victim to their trap. Although phishing attacks are highly documented, it remains a serious and effective method against non-security professionals. In fact, email-based phishing attacks have only gone up. In 2021, 86% of organizations experienced a successful phishing attack – up 36% from 2020.
One major contributing factor in the increase in email phishing attacks is remote work. Unfortunately, dispersed workforces carry corresponding security complications. During the past two years, the security perimeter has dissolved and corporate networks have evolved from strictly on-premises to the cloud, enabling employees to work from anywhere around the world. It is important to note that remote/hybrid work has blurred the lines between personal and professional life.
To avoid phishing scams, organizations must invest in educating employees on early signs of phishing scams, how to differentiate phishing, and good cybersecurity practices. However, it is also essential that modernized solutions are implemented in place as a backbone of an organization’s cybersecurity posture.
Staying cyber smart against competent criminals
Rather than retreating to legacy solutions and failed strategies, companies should rethink using proactive techniques for addressing cyber threats head-on. Human error is also frequently to blame for as many as 95% of data breaches. In this case, security leaders need to understand what is a normal level of activity for their networks, and how to identify abnormalities that should be flagged for detection, investigation, and containment, to prevent any damage to business systems. A recent example of why this visibility is important is the devastating SolarWinds breach, in which cyber criminals went undetected inside network systems for 6 months. This incident was a wakeup call to the cybersecurity industry. Therefore, organizations must take a proactive approach to cybersecurity. Cyber criminals can remain undetected on internal systems for months if adequate detection solutions are not in place.
Having a threat detection, investigation, and response (TDIR) solution in place can help an organization to remain protected in the current threat climate. Allowing for a mix of behavioral analytics and smart cyber hygiene can prevent credential-based attacks and hostile lateral movements across the network. TDIR system solutions allow organizations to create a baseline of normal behavior through machine learning technologies. Security teams can thus spot abnormalities faster and can implement security protocols.
Another step to preventing phishing attacks is for organizations to empower the workforce using proactive measures to bolster security defenses. Employees remain a critical aspect of a company’s security posture, and having security teams regularly monitor behavioral analytics while also educating employees on password best practices can go a long way toward ensuring the organization is protected. Best practices include changing passwords regularly or using password vaults, enabling multi-factor authentication, or using adaptive authentication. Employees who routinely implement these and other cyber hygiene practices for both personal and professional accounts minimize the risk of being victims of a phishing attack.
Finally, security leaders can implement a regular cybersecurity awareness training program. The key to developing an effective security awareness training program is to make it accessible to all departments within the organization. This can be done through brief or bite-sized knowledge sharing that provides examples of what employees can, and should, be doing to maintain a responsible security posture online. A proactive, joint approach to cybersecurity can be a boon for growth of the organization.
As evidence has shown, cyber crime has grown quite lucrative, and phishing remains among the most popular methods of attack. The implementation of behavioral analytics solutions allow for the creation of baseline behaviors, meaning that security teams can clearly identify irregular or abnormal behaviors and take action to determine if someone with access is a potential threat. The nature of phishing attacks and the role of human error in the problem means that it’s unlikely we can completely eliminate this threat. However, it is up to leaders to ensure that employees use effective cybersecurity practices and solutions to shore up cyber defenses. When the practices are not enforced, organizations run the risk of becoming another cyber crime victim, which has far-reaching consequences and negative impacts to brand, reputation, and customers and partners. Why take that chance?