I had the opportunity to go camping with my family the past few years and they are always great adventures. A few years ago, and when I asked my 6-year-old son what his favorite part of the trip was, he said fishing. This year, he is 9, and fishing was #2, #1 was catching baby salamanders (the hunt was part of the fun). No salamanders were harmed in the making of our camping adventure!
It got me thinking that as business owners, managers, employees, and individuals we are subject to phishing attempts multiple times a day. My son was so excited that he caught his first fish on our trip. I’ll always remember the excitement in his eyes as we reeled in that little 4 inch sunny (that we released). He then proceeded to catch about 5 more, and much to me and my wife’s amusement, one was deemed big enough to keep and take back for dinner! Imagine how excited scammers are when they get a few nibbles and eventually hook a phish!
With ubiquitous wifi at every coffee shop, airport, and even many downtown areas, there are an unlimited number of hackers and scammers out there phishing for your corporate, personal, and employee information. Some of these attempts are geared to get very small pieces of information, seemingly not too important. They allow a scammer to understand how a company “talks” internally, including names and emails of key department heads. They are able to build a corporate profile and can impersonate an internal employee.
Other cyber threats are more obvious if you know what to look for. Sadly though, some of these phishing ploys are well thought out and many unsuspecting users fall for them. One popular phishing scam is a fake email from a big bank saying your account was compromised and you need to login in through this special link to update all your information and confirm your personal details. Many of these are very well thought out and catch some big fish!
And of course, we have ransomware (crypto viruses), malware, advertising bots etc. that can get onto our laptops and tablets and then find their way into company servers where they cost businesses millions of dollars a year in lost data, paid ransoms and time to rebuild systems.
And to clear up a few scams, Microsoft or the IRS will NEVER call you asking for your personal information or to login into your PC to do a free update to Windows or your processor. Never! Ever! Not happening!
Imagine if there were a super smart fish (some really are). This fish learned that hooks and plastic lures and glowing colored fake salmon egg balls are bad. This fish learned to avoid such lures and bait. Compared to other fish that did not know what this fish did, who would have the best chance of not falling for a fishing lure? Obviously, the fish that learned a bit about the lures and traps used by those trying to catch it.
The same goes for us. Many phishing ploys are reasonably easy to identify and avoid if you learn what to look for, and learn the common lures and bait used to trick unsuspecting users. Hackers and Phishers go for volume, don’t do what the masses do and learn to protect yourself and your organization.
Some of the well-known email scams have even made it into pop culture and are the butt of comedians jokes like a rich prince/businessman in the middle east or Africa needs you to help him get their funds into the USA and if you share your bank info, he will share his wealth with you. You just need to fund the account with $X and confirm your brokerage account info and you will be rewarded handsomely. As crazy as this sounds to most people reading this, I have a very good friend who’s father fell for one of these and it wiped out most of his retirement.
To see some recent cybersecurity hacking successes that compromised surprisingly large organizations, you can check out our previous post from a few months ago about recent cyber attacks. There are many more since that list was published not that long ago.
By learning what to avoid, you can save yourself and your company a lot of money, time and lost data.
Remember that not all data security threats are external. Some threats are internal, and some are intentional. A business needs to think proactively about protecting their data. If sensitive data is successfully breached, fines and lawsuits are getting increasingly more expensive.