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The complete guide to phishing attacks

Phishing attacks are a dangerous trend that criminals are using to capture your personal information. Once they have your info, they use it against you to steal your identity or other important personal and business-related information.

Phishing attacks typically involve a hacker sending a fake email pretending to be a service you use or depicting an official company in some manner. The goal is to trick you into providing information or taking an action and exploit your system.

These attacks have been the culprits behind 91 percent of industry-wide data breaches and cost American businesses $500 million on average per year. Small businesses are often the target of these scams, but you can prevent a phishing attack if you have a plan in place.

Here are seven effective ways to get it done.

1. Implement training

When you’re dealing with a cybersecurity threat, such as phishing attacks, you have to know what you’re up against. One of the best ways to prevent phishing attacks involves awareness.

Research indicates that there is a 90 percent chance that at least one person will open a phishing email for every 10 phishing emails sent by a hacker. A large part of why this occurs is due to the fact that most people aren’t aware of the differences between a phishing email and an official email from the legitimate company.

That’s why it’s important to train your staff on the dangers of phishing attacks. They need to understand the harm phishing attacks can cause to your business and your team. Training is an integral preventive measure you don’t want to skip over. Even high-level HBO employees were susceptible to a phishing attack due to a lack of phishing scam awareness.

Your training should be as thorough as possible. Provide a full explanation of what phishing attacks are and what criminals are trying to obtain. Your staff should also be aware of how to quickly identify secure sites. For example, how to verify that URLs contained in emails lead to a secure connection.

Also, direct your staff to report and delete suspicious emails that request personal information of any kind. Always contact the official company directly or visit the official site instead. Finally, make it clear to your team to never click any email with links that look suspicious.

2. Use email encryption

Keep your data safe by using a service that provides email encryption. This helps to prevent data loss in the event a breach occurs or even if the information is transferred between servers.

You can also ensure you use a service that provides complete cybersecurity solutions that help to secure your network and devices, including data and devices on-premises or in the cloud.

3. Use an antivirus program

All of your computers should be safeguarded with an antivirus software and installed with an auto-update feature. In the event that you click on the link within a phishing email, the antivirus program detects the malicious email and alerts you.

This helps you to immediately recognize that you are not on the right site so you know it is a phishing email. Use the toolbar add-on or browser extension that comes with the program so you can easily identify when you are on the correct site.

4. Check the sender address

It’s important to double check where the original email is coming from—you can easily verify this by checking the details of the original address. Be aware of the official email address of legitimate companies by directly verifying it with the company from its official site.

5. Update your router

Routers can serve as the first line of defense against phishing emails since they can act as a buffer. By keeping your router updated it will help secure your network. Most routers automatically block sites that are known for phishing. They also come with a firewall for further protection.

6. Backup your data

Even with all of the security measures you take, there is still a chance that hackers can get to the right person and breach your system. It’s crucial to have a backup plan that includes data backup.

This is especially important with ransomware on the rise.

7. Check your accounts regularly

A final good practice is to check your accounts regularly to ensure nothing out of the ordinary is happening.

Also, frequently change your passwords for an added layer of protection—and keep your passwords in plain text on your computer. Instead, use a secure password manager, like LastPass.

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Be proactive and get help

The only way to prevent phishing attacks is to have a game plan. But this is hardly a solo job.

You can (and should) leverage the help of a professional team of IT experts who have experience in providing network security and disaster recovery. Your managed IT services provider will be able to help with everything from hardware and software setup to employee training. Be sure to take advantage of their expertise.

As long as you have a strategy for dealing with phishing attacks, you can stop hackers dead in their tracks and maintain your focus on your business.