Ransomware attacks have increased significantly since the start of 2020 and that increase has continued in 2021. While these attacks are occurring more frequently than ever, the threat from phishing has not gone away and attacks are still rife. Phishing attacks may not make headline news like ransomware attacks on hospitals that threaten patient safety, but they can still be incredibly damaging.

The aim of many phishing attacks is to obtain credentials. Email credentials are often targeted as email accounts contain a treasure trove of data. That data can be extremely valuable to cybercriminals. In healthcare for example, email accounts contain valuable healthcare data, health insurance information, and Social Security numbers, which can be used to commit identity theft, obtain medical treatment, and for tax fraud. Entire email accounts are often exfiltrated in the attacks and the accounts used to send tailored phishing emails to other individuals in the company.

Many data breaches start with a phishing email, with phishing often used by an attacker to gain a foothold in a network that can be used in a much more extensive attack on an organization. Phishing emails are often the first step in a malware or ransomware attack.

Multiple surveys have recently been conducted on IT leaders and employees that show phishing is a very real and present danger. Two recent surveys conducted in the United States and United Kingdom indicate almost three quarters of businesses have experienced a data breach as a result of a phishing attack in the past 12 months. One study indicated over 50% of IT leaders had seen an increase in phishing attacks in the past 12 months, while the other put the figure at 80%.

During the pandemic, many businesses were faced with the option of switching to a remote workforce or shutting down. The increase in remote working was a godsend for phishers, who increase their attacks on employees. Many IT departments lacked visibility with a remote workforce and found it harder to block phishing attacks than when employees are in the office. Staff shortages in IT have certainly not helped.

Staff training is important to raise awareness of the threat from phishing, but remote working has made that harder. Training needs to be provided regularly as it can easily be forgotten and bad habits can slip in. Phishing tactics are also constantly changing, so regular training is needed to keep employees aware of the latest threats and phishing techniques, so they know what to look for. It does not help that phishing attacks are increasingly targeted and more sophisticated and can be difficult for employees to spot even if they have received regular training.

So how can businesses combat the threat from phishing and avoid being one of the three quarters of companies that experience a phishing data breach each year? Training is important, but the right technology is required.

Two of the most important technical solutions that should be implemented to block phishing attacks are spam filters and web filters. Both are effective at combatting phishing, albeit from different angles. When both are used together, protection is better than the sum of both parts.

A spam filter must have certain features to block sophisticated phishing threats. Blacklists are great for identifying emails from known malicious IP addresses, but IP addresses frequently change. Machine learning approaches are needed to identify previously unseen phishing tactics and threats from IP addresses not known to be malicious. Multiple AV engines can help to block more malware threats, while sandboxing can be used identify new malware variants. DMARC is also vital to block email impersonation attacks, while outbound scanning is important to rapidly detect compromised mailboxes. All of these features are employed by SpamTitan, which is why the solution has such a high block rate (over 99.97%) and low false positive rate.

Web filters are primarily used to restrict access to malicious and undesirable websites, whether they are sites with pornographic content or malicious sites used for phishing and malware distribution. Web filters, especially DNS-based filters, greatly improve protection against threats and will block access to known malicious websites. They will also block malware downloads and restrict access to questionable websites that serve no work purpose but increase risk. WebTitan will do this and more, and can easily be configured to protect remote workers, no matter where they choose to access the Internet.

With phishing attacks increasing it is important that businesses deploy solutions to counter the threat to stay one step ahead of the phishers. For further information on SpamTitan and WebTitan, and how they can protect your business, give the TitanHQ team a call. Both solutions are available on a free trial to allow you to see for yourself the difference they make. You can sign up for a free trial of SpamTitan here, and WebTitan on this link.