Across every single area of data breaches, one single tactic is responsible for a huge proportion of damages. Phishing, which accounts for 36% of all data breaches, is one of the easiest tactics that hackers use to steal data from companies, obtain private credentials, and infect systems.
What exactly is phishing?
Phishing is a specific form of cybercrime that takes place through communication lines; whether these be emails, text messages, telephone calls, or something else, they all involve an attempt to steal information. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, phishing scams have been rapidly on the rise.
At their core, a phishing attack will try and find out personal or private information for the person they are aimed at, often targeting passwords, usernames, or banking information. With this information, a hacker could then directly steal from the person or company they’ve taken information from. Equally, phishing is one of the leading causes of identity theft, with a hacker using private information about someone to then steal their identity for financial or other nefarious purposes.
When it comes to businesses, if a hacker is able to access a company account with stolen information, they can then potentially leak all the confidential data that a certain company has. This can lead to massive data breaches, which cause 60% of small businesses to go bankrupt if they experience a data crisis event.
Especially considering how easy it is to fall for a phishing scam, this is one of the leading causes of data breaches, putting company and individual data at risk when navigating online.
Why do people fall for phishing scams?
A 2021 study revealed that almost one of every three employees has or will fall for a phishing scam during any given year. While you may be thinking that figure is ridiculous, you’d be surprised just how easy it is to fall prey to these scams. The main reason that phishing scams are so convincing is that they prey on human action bias, with a call to attention stating that attention must be taken right now, fooling many people.
There are three main reasons that people routinely fall for phishing scams:
- Advanced technology – While phishing scams used to be incredibly obvious to spot, with the link that was within an email going to an obviously fake page, the same can’t be said for modern phishing. On the contrary, hackers have now directly duplicated web pages, with the only difference between the false construction that they’ve made and the real site being a small permutation within the URL. Due to this, many people don’t hesitate to enter their information, accidentally dooming themselves by giving away passwords or their own financial data.
- Action Bias – As we live in an age of constant information, it isn’t uncommon to receive an email or a text that alerts us to an update on one of our many accounts. Due to this constant flow of information, it doesn’t seem strange when a bank emails us, or we get a work email from an address we don’t recognize. When this is combined with a sense of urgency, with what looks like our bank telling us that someone is using our card to make scam payments online, we instantly jump to action. This is known as action bias, with the human need to react quickly and do something often causing our downfall when it comes to phishing.
- Lack of Awareness – The third reason that people fall for scams when it comes to phishing is simply because they’re not aware that this is a form of scam that is going around. It’s now almost every single month when news comes out about a new phishing scam that people have fallen for. A recent one was on WhatsApp, where scammers would text middle-aged and older people with “Hey Mom/Dad, it’s me”, making people believe their son or daughter had changed the number and was texting them. If people simply aren’t aware of the signs, they never expect that they’re being scammed.
Due to these three main reasons, more people than ever before are falling prey to phishing scams.
How Can I Protect Myself or My Business?
If you’re looking to protect yourself from phishing scams, then there are three main tactics that you should use. These are all fairly easy to introduce to your life, making them an effective trio:
- Cybersecurity – One of the best ways to ensure phishing scams don’t even land in your inbox is to install a cybersecurity software that will read emails in order to search for potentially dangerous content. Doing this will dramatically reduce the number of phishing emails that arrive in your inbox, helping to keep you safe.
- Knowledge – If you train yourself or your employees on all the signs of a phishing scam, you’ll be much more prepared to deal with one when it lands in your inbox. A bit of education will help you recognize a scam and put a stop to it straight away.
- Hesitation – Whenever something comes into your inbox, always take a second to ensure that it’s coming from someone you know. Carefully check the email address, as well as navigate to any sites directly from Google, not from the email itself. Taking a few extra seconds to wait and ensure that you’re not falling into a scam will go an incredibly long way.
By following these three tips, you’re able to keep yourself safe when online. By taking a moment to check any communications you receive, knowing the signs, and investing in cybersecurity software, you’ll be able to stay one step ahead of hackers.
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