Have you ever unknowingly opened and responded to a phishing email or fallen victim to a phishing attack? A recent report by Frost & Sullivan titled “You’ve Been Phished, Again! Solution: Eliminate the Click-It Temptation,” discussed just how susceptible we all are to these fraudulent attacks and what can be done to avoid them.
How Do Phishing Attacks Work?
Phishing is one of the oldest and most effective online threats to end users. Cybercriminals launch phishing campaigns to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and financial materials from unsuspecting online banking customers. Using social engineering, fraudsters deliver malicious messages to potential victims’ email addresses or through instant messaging with a URL inside. Once a victim opens the email, clicks on the link or downloads the malware-laden attachment, he or she will unknowingly disclose login credentials or credit card information to fraudulent banking websites that seem legitimate. It often falls on the end user to recognize the phishing attack and resist the temptation to click.
Fraudsters rely on your confusion. The ultimate goal is to steal your credentials, gain access to your accounts, control your financial information and steal your hard-earned money. Considering that 30 percent of phishing emails are opened, according to Barkly, it is no wonder the practice continues to be so popular among attackers. Legitimate business organizations would be thrilled with those email engagement rates, but these scams are far from legitimate.
Why Do We Keep Getting Hooked?
The Anti-Phishing Working Group’s (APWG) “Phishing Activity Trends Report” indicated that there were over 1.2 million known phishing attacks in 2016. That is a 65 percent increase over 2015, and it represents the highest annual total since APWG began monitoring attacks in 2004. Phishing emails are designed to attract attention and solicit an immediate response; a potential victim’s basic instinct is to react quickly and click on the fraudulent request.
“Once phishing attacks appear on user devices, as history has shown, nearly 1 in 10 users take the bait, and take the bait quickly,” said Michael Suby, Stratecast vice president of research at Frost & Sullivan. “The ultimate in phishing mitigation is to block all phishing attacks from ever reaching users’ device screens. In essence, remove users from the role of defending against phishing attacks.”
Don’t Take the Bait
It’s an ongoing game between cybercriminals and unknowing end users. Successful criminal groups constantly evolve their phishing tactics to stay ahead of organizations attempting to detect and thwart phishing. On average, phishing sites are online for less than 15 hours, making it difficult to quickly identify and block them. In addition, close to 100 percent of phishing URLs point to malicious pages or sites within benign domains, which makes them seem legitimate.
As fraudsters alter their methods of attack, a financial institution’s main goal is to block phishing scams from reaching customers’ devices, keep their funds safe from fraud and ensure a safe online banking experience. That is easier said than done. Banks usually have security systems, external services and security teams as a first line of defense against cybercriminals. Even with these measures in place, however, they can’t stop phishing attacks that occur outside of online banking sessions.
Cutting the Phishing Line
Identifying a phishing site is one thing, but stopping people from becoming potential victims is where the value lies. Financial institutions require phishing detection solutions that take a cognitive approach to protecting end users at the device level. Using patented machine learning and advanced analytics, such solutions continuously evaluate suspicious links, images, forms, URLs and more to help identify phishing and malware threats.
After a phishing detection tool identifies and confirms a fraudulent site, it can automatically block users from accessing it. The confirmed malicious URL is then added to a blacklist and extended to all endpoints running the solution. The tool’s learning capabilities allow it to adapt as cybercriminals alter their attack methods.