Data & Document Collection

How to Stop Phishing Emails (Before They Happen)

Discover the latest phishing attack trends in the banking & financial services sector and how to prevent costly data breaches for your organization.

Phishing is a cyberattack method wherein attackers masquerade as reputable entities to trick individuals into divulging confidential information. In recent years, this tactic has expanded from email to other communication channels, including phone calls, social media, and text messages, thereby magnifying its threat profile. The volume of these attacks underscores the urgency to combat and stop phishing emails, as attackers send an estimated three billion phishing emails daily, reflecting both the scale of the challenge and the critical need for effective countermeasures. 

How to Stop Phishing Emails (Before They Happen)

Within the banking and financial services industries, the imperative to safeguard personally identifiable information (PII) and personally identifiable financial information (PIFI) cannot be overstated. The persistent risk posed by phishing necessitates a vigilant and sophisticated approach to cybersecurity, where preventive measures and technologies play a pivotal role in defending against these pervasive and evolving cyber threats. This guide covers ongoing trends in phishing attacks and effective solutions organizations can implement before suffering a costly data breach.

Understanding the Phishing Threat Landscape

Phishing attacks have become a daily challenge for businesses. The banking and financial services industries are particularly vulnerable due to the sensitive nature of the data they process. Here are some important ongoing trends in phishing tactics:

Recent Trends and Developments

Phishing attacks are on the rise — researchers logged a 61% increase in phishing scams in 2022 — and are simultaneously becoming more sophisticated and targeted. Cybercriminals continuously refine their methods to bypass traditional security measures.

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Recent developments in phishing methods and targets include:

  • Exploitation of Multiple Platforms: Attackers now supplement traditional phishing through emails with attacks via phone calls (vishing), text messages (smishing), social media, and apps. This multi-platform strategy increases the likelihood of finding a vulnerable entry point into an individual's personal or work life.
  • Long-Term Social Engineering: Cybercriminals are engaging in elaborate schemes where they construct fake social media profiles or send a series of credible-looking emails to build trust over months or even years. This approach is particularly common in spear phishing attacks, where attackers target specific individuals or organizations to extract highly sensitive information.
  • Highly Personalized Attacks: Phishing attempts have evolved from generic mass emails to highly personalized messages that are difficult to distinguish from legitimate communications. Attackers now tailor their messages using information scraped from public profiles, previous breaches, or by compromising email accounts to make subsequent phishing attacks from a trusted source, thereby increasing their chances of success.

Common Tactics

Phishing tactics are diverse and businesses must take steps to educate their employees on common methods on formats. Employees may encounter phishing scams as:

  • Deceptive Emails: Phishers send emails that appear to be from legitimate companies or known contacts, asking recipients to provide personal information, click on malicious links, or download attachments that may contain malware.
  • Spoofed Sender Addresses: Attackers manipulate the sender's email address to make it appear as though the email is coming from a credible source, such as a company's official account, often with a domain name that is a slight variation of the actual one.
  • Urgency and Fear Tactics: Cybercriminals often create a sense of urgency or invoke fear by claiming that the recipient's account has been compromised or involved in illegal activity, prompting immediate action.
  • Fake Websites: Fraudsters create counterfeit websites that mimic legitimate sites, complete with logos and branding, to deceive individuals into entering their credentials or personal information.
  • Prize and Lottery Scams: These emails inform recipients that they have won a lottery or prize and request personal details or a payment to "release" the winnings, exploiting human psychology to entice victims with the promise of reward.

Business Impact

Phishing attacks are not only becoming more frequent but are also racking up successes against high-profile, security-savvy organizations. Here are two notable, recent examples:

  • Okta Data Breach: Okta, a widely used identity service and authentication management provider, disclosed a security incident where a threat actor breached the company’s support case management system and gained access to data from over 9,000 accounts representing 130 different organizations. The breach came to light when suspicious activity involving a service account with permission to view and update customer support cases was detected. Investigations revealed that attackers contacted Okta employees through emails with links to a spoofed version of Okta’s multifactor authentication (MFA) login page.
  • Uber Data Breach (2022): In September 2022, Uber experienced a significant system breach — dubbed a “total compromise” by security analysts at Yugi Labs — through social engineering, where a hacker compromised an employee’s Slack account. The attacker persuaded the employee to hand over a password, gaining complete access to cloud-based systems holding sensitive customer and financial information. This breach is a stark reminder of the importance of monitoring login attempts and restricting third-party data access, as the hacker took advantage of these system vulnerabilities​​.

Best Anti-Phishing Practices for Businesses

In the wake of high-profile cybersecurity breaches, businesses must adopt stringent measures to safeguard against phishing attacks. The following best practices can significantly enhance an organization's defensive posture:

1. Email Encryption

Sensitive information transmitted via email should always be encrypted. Encryption ensures that even if a phishing attack intercepts the communication, the content remains unintelligible and secure from unauthorized access.

2. Password Protection for Files

Implement strong password policies for file access, especially for documents containing PII or PIFI. Passwords should be complex, changed regularly, and never reused across different services or platforms.

3. Email Authentication Protocols

Protocols such as Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) should be in place. These protocols authenticate the domains of email senders, reducing the chances of spoofed or unauthorized emails reaching employees.

4. Employee Training Programs

A well-informed workforce is a crucial line of defense. Regular training sessions should be conducted to educate employees on the latest phishing techniques and how to recognize suspicious emails, links, and requests.

5. Incident Response Plan

A robust incident response plan enables a quick and effective reaction to security breaches. This plan should outline specific procedures for containment, eradication, and recovery from phishing attacks, as well as communication strategies to manage external messaging and compliance requirements.

6. Continuous Monitoring and Response

Regularly monitor systems for unauthorized access or anomalous behaviors that could indicate a breach. Have a cybersecurity team ready to respond to potential threats, ensuring that any intrusion can be quickly identified and mitigated.

7. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

MFA adds an additional layer of security, requiring users to provide two or more verification factors to gain access to resources. This can prevent attackers from gaining access, even if they have obtained a user's credentials.

8. Regular Security Audits

Conducting frequent security audits can uncover potential vulnerabilities within the organization's network, software, and policies, providing an opportunity to strengthen defenses before they are exploited by attackers.

9. Vigilance with Third-Party Access

Closely manage and monitor third-party access to company systems. Vendors and partners should only be granted the minimum access necessary and should be subject to the same security policies as internal staff.

FileInvite: Tools and Technologies for Phishing Prevention 

The proliferation of phishing attacks has made it essential for businesses to adopt advanced tools and technologies for protection against cyber threats. The secure file-sharing and document portal platform FileInvite stands out as a comprehensive technological safeguard specifically designed to mitigate the risks associated with email phishing.

Importance of Protecting PII and PIFI

For decision-makers in the financial and banking sectors, safeguarding personally identifiable information (PII) and personally identifiable financial information (PIFI) is paramount. Email — while a ubiquitous communication channel — presents inherent security risks that businesses can no longer afford to overlook. 

FileInvite’s Encrypted Customer Portal

FileInvite addresses these vulnerabilities directly through its encrypted customer portal. By facilitating a secure environment for document management and sharing, FileInvite's portal dramatically eliminates the need for email-based document exchange, thereby minimizing the risk of phishing attacks breaching customer PII and PIFI. FileInvite’s secure portal keeps sensitive documents and data encrypted both in transit and in storage, providing a secure channel for clients to interact directly with their financial service providers.

FileInvite’s Security Enhancing Features

FileInvite’s platform has a suite of features for further reinforcing security against phishing:

  • Reduction in Email-Based Communication: By diminishing the reliance on emails for document sharing and communications, FileInvite cuts down the opportunities for phishers to intercept or forge email communications.
  • Access Controls and Permissions: FileInvite enables businesses to set stringent access controls and permissions, ensuring that only authorized personnel can view or modify sensitive documents. This granular control system is essential for preventing unauthorized access and potential data breaches.
  • Real-Time Notifications and Alerts: With FileInvite, organizations receive instant notifications and alerts for all document interactions. This feature allows for prompt action if any unusual activity is detected, ensuring that any attempt at unauthorized access can be quickly identified and addressed.
  • SOC 2 Type 2 Certification: FIleInvite maintains bank-grade security standards with Service Organization Controls (SOC) 2 Type 2 certification, audited by independent CPAs with long-term access to companies’ internal data-handling practices. 

Be Proactive in the Fight Against Phishing with FileInvite

In the fight against rapidly evolving security threats like phishing, organizations need robust defenses. FileInvite’s encrypted customer portal is the frontline solution for securing document exchanges outside the vulnerable email environment. 

By integrating FileInvite, you ensure that access to sensitive information is tightly controlled, with permissions and real-time alerts that maintain the integrity of your data. Minimize your risk, protect your client’s privacy, and adhere to the highest standards of cybersecurity with FileInvite. Act today to fortify your defenses against phishing. 

To learn more and request a demo, visit FileInvite today.

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