4 Ways to Prevent Cyber Attacks Like Spear Phishing and Whaling
May 05, 2021 19:06
The Internet has evolved notably over the last century, providing users with diverse content. Besides serving as an effective marketing medium for businesses and organizations, it has proven to be quite an efficient mode of passing various information and sharing data.
Despite the several benefits attached to using the Internet, it’s not without its shortcomings, one of which is its users' susceptibility to attacks from external forces, aiming to take control of their profiles or systems.
These onslaughts, known as cyber-attacks, come in various forms and through several modes, including social engineering. This term refers to a series of malicious activities through a victim's interactions with other humans.
It involves manipulating people into revealing vital personal and confidential information to gain unauthorized and illegitimate access to their various digital profiles. Such confidential information includes passwords, credit card details, bank information, etc.
Social engineering takes place in several ways, including baiting, pretexting, spear phishing, whaling, etc. This article will be examining two common ones, spear-phishing and whaling, and how to prevent them.
In using the Internet, you must have come across different articles and blogs that compared spear phishing vs phishing. While they might have succeeded in defining the two terms, the relationship between them may still not be clear to you. Worry not, as we’ll be doing justice to it in this piece.
A phishing attack is a common social engineering tactic that cyber criminals often use to commit data theft, usually involving credit card details, passwords to digital profiles, etc. This attack begins with the criminal disguising as a trusted entity to gain the victim's trust before duping them into opening a phishing email, text, or instant message containing malicious links.
Spear phishing definition is similar to that of phishing but differs in approach. It’s a more targeted version of the phishing attack during which the cybercriminal focuses on specific individuals or organizations. All messages and emails get tailored and designed to match their victims' job descriptions, contacts, and features to make it challenging for the latter to decipher.
This social engineering tactic is way harder to detect and requires more effort from the perpetrator than phishing scams. Also, if pulled off skillfully, it has more success rate as it tends to exploit information that is already in public.
Whaling is a term used to denote the high value of a scam target. A whaling scam has much in common with phishing in terms of its mode of operation, only that it tends to target individuals at the upper echelon of an organization. By definition, it's a spear-phishing attack perpetrated against high-level personnel within an enterprise, such as a CEO or CFO.
This criminal activity targets senior individuals at the top of the ladder in an organization to extort and steal funds, confidential data, or getting access to computer networks or systems. Here, the criminal sets a series of plans to manipulate the target, who is someone who possesses a high monetary or information value.
Now that you know what spear-phishing and whaling attacks entail, it’s time to see how to prevent yourself from falling victim to them and other cyber-attacks.
How to Safeguard Yourself against Cyber Attacks
It's no news that a cyber-attack is a deliberate attempt by unscrupulous elements to compromise your computer systems or network's security through the use of malicious codes or links.
This criminal activity aims to steal, leak, or 'kidnap' valuable data. It can also come in the form of manipulating you into giving up confidential information. Common ones like spear-phishing and whaling have done lots of harm to individuals in the past and aren't stopping anytime soon.
A recent study showed 75% of organizations worldwide went through one form of a phishing attack or the other in 2020. The FBI tagged phishing as the most common form of cybercrime of the same year, with the number of incidents doubling from 2019 (114,702 to 241, 324).
With the massive amounts of money and valuable data lost to cybercriminals and cyber-attacks, the need to put cybersecurity measures in place to avoid falling victim is a no-brainer. In light of this, we’ve drawn up some tips to ensure you stay protected.
1.Train Yourself and Members of Your Workforce
In an organization, one of the most common avenues through which hackers launch cyber-attacks is employees. They mostly pull these off by sending them a phishing email impersonating a top figure in the enterprise, requesting personal and confidential details.
These emails usually have an air of urgency that makes their true purpose inconspicuous to the targets. If the latter successfully gets tricked into divulging sensitive information, it could pose a severe danger for the entire organization.
Hire the services of a reliable cybersecurity firm to train you and your staff on the impact of such emails and how they can handle them. Teach them to always check links before clicking them and apply common sense before giving up personal information.
2.Backup Your Network and Data
A cyber-attack can be highly devastating to individuals and organizations. To ensure you're on the safer side, consider backing up your files, data, and network. Doing this will help you bounce back quickly from an attack, should one ever occur, by helping you minimize downtime and severe financial loss. Invest in cloud-based backup software and systems.
3.Implement Strict Password Management Policies
Implementing strict password management policies within an organization is an effective way of preventing a phishing attack. It prevents employees from giving up the company's access codes to illegitimate websites.
For instance, you can instruct staff members always to provide an incorrect password first when accessing a link from an email. It's common knowledge that a phishing site will readily accept a wrong password while a genuine one wouldn't.
4.High-Level Executives Must Keep Private Social Media Profiles
Social media platforms have always been the go-to avenues for hackers and social engineers as they offer a wealth of information about individuals. To avoid falling victim to whaling attacks, which usually target high-profile persons, senior executives of organizations must learn to keep private social media profiles. Doing this limits the amount of information to which an attacker has access.
Cyber-attacks like spear-phishing and whaling have devastating effects. There's no doing too much when it comes to protecting yourself and your business from them. While it can be pretty challenging to handle considering the massive amount of information out there, it's something you've got to do.
By adopting the preventive measures examined above, you stand a chance. If you'd like to take the burden off you, consider consulting an IT security firm near you.
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