In today’s digital age, phishing attacks remain a constant threat to both people and businesses.

Cybercriminals are always coming up with new and more sophisticated ways to get people to give them personal information or fall for scams.

The scale of phishing attempts remains relentless.

According to the government’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2022,

“In the last 12 months, 39% of UK businesses identified a cyber-attack…Of the 39% of UK businesses who identified an attack, the most common threat vector was phishing attempts (83%).”

Here in Suffolk, there have been 102 reports of hacking (social media and email) in the last seven months alone, with reported losses of over £1.1k. In Norfolk, there have been 86 reports of hacking (social media and email), while in Essex, there have been 240 reports! (All data sourced from NFIB Fraud and Cyber Crime Dashboard, date range = 01.01.2023 – 24.07.2023)

But even though phishing scams are happening more and more often, it is not impossible to stay one step ahead of these sneaky tricks.

At Lucid Systems, we help businesses in Suffolk, Norfolk, and Essex stop phishing attacks by putting in place proven strategies that will protect you from potential harm.

As a Microsoft Gold Partner, we have the skills and expertise to increase your resilience to online threats.

And thanks to our ISO 27001 accreditation, you know that we’ll always work to global best practice standards.

Don’t let the phishing bait lure you in – let’s dive in and discover how you can outsmart the phishers and protect your digital world.

a laptop with a red warning sign highlighting the dangers that arise from phishing scamsWhat exactly is phishing?

Phishing is a type of cyberattack in which scammers pretend to be a real company or person to get people to give them sensitive information like passwords or credit card numbers.

Criminals often use emails, instant messages, and phone calls to trick their victims into clicking on dangerous links or giving away private information. Phishing attacks can be very sophisticated, and hackers go to great lengths to make the emails look real. These hackers will often pretend to be well-known brands, banks, or government agencies. Their goal is to get people to do things that help the attackers, like giving out personal information or installing malware on their devices.

What’s so bad about phishing?

Phishing attacks can have terrible effects on both people and businesses. If you fall for a phishing attack, you could lose money, have your identity stolen, or have other sensitive information accessed without your permission.

If your customer data gets into the wrong hands, your business may also lose customers and face legal trouble. As well as short-term harm, you could experience long-term reputational damage that could be almost impossible to recover from.

What are the various types of phishing attacks?

To lower the risk of falling for a phishing scam, it is important to know the different kinds of attacks and what to look out for.

There are many different kinds of phishing attacks, each with its own methods and goals.

Photo of a laptop with a credit card and a fish hook to represent phishing scamsEmail Phishing

This is the most common type of phishing attack. Attackers send fake emails that look like they came from a trustworthy source. Most of the time, these emails have links or attachments that, when clicked or downloaded, install malware or collect sensitive information.

Top tip: If you’re not sure if an email is real, click on the name of the sender to see their email address. This simple tactic will easily help you spot if something is legitimate.

Spear Phishing

Spear phishing attacks are very targeted and often made to look like they came from a specific person or company. Attackers get information about their targets from different places, like social media sites, so that their emails look more convincing and their chances of success are higher.

Top tip: Take a look at your social media platforms (personal and professional) and check your security settings. If it’s a personal account, try to limit who has access to your profiles. It might reduce your “likes” but it could protect you from harm.

Whaling 

Whaling attacks go after high-profile people, like executives or senior management, in order to get to sensitive corporate data or financial information. These attacks often use advanced methods, like pretending to be a trusted colleague or business partner.

If a colleague has accidently clicked on a malicious link, they may not know that they are being impersonated. This can create havoc as a senior executive might naturally trust the “sender.”

Vishing

Vishing, also called “voice phishing,” is when attackers call people on the phone to trick them into giving out personal or financial information. Most of the time, these attackers pretend to be bank employees, government employees, or tech support staff to get their victims to trust them.

If you do have any doubts over someone phoning you, always hang up.

Example image of a phone text conversation with a scammer trying to steal someones personal detailsSmishing 

Smishing is a type of attack that uses SMS or text messages to trick people into clicking on harmful links or giving out sensitive information. Often, these messages look urgent or scary, creating a sense of urgency to trick people into acting right away.

Top tip! The best thing you can do is to forward any malicious text messages to 7726. This allows the National Cyber Security Centre to investigate.

Common signs of phishing emails

Phishing emails can be hard to spot because the people who send them go to great lengths to make them look real. But there are some signs you can look for to help you figure out if someone is trying to phish you. Here are some common warning signs to look out for in an email:

Sender’s email address

Pay close attention to the sender’s email address. Attackers often use email addresses that look a lot like real ones, but if you look closely, you might see small differences or misspellings.

In most scenarios, legitimate emails will come from a business domain (such as lucidsystems.co.uk) rather than a Gmail or Outlook.com address.

Check the greetings

Instead of using your name, phishing emails often start with something like “Dear Customer.”

Most businesses will address you by your name or username to confirm their legitimacy.

Is there a sense of fear or urgency in the message?

Phishing emails often make you feel like you need to act right away. They might say your account is in danger and you need to confirm your information right away. This is a very common sign that something is a scam.

Try to be wary of anything that forces you to act quickly, without giving you time to think.

Are there any malicious links?

Be wary of any attachments or links in emails, especially if they come out of the blue or seem strange. Most of the time, attackers use these to send malware or send you to fake websites where they can steal your information.

A good tip is to move your mouse over the button and see if a small bar at the bottom of your browser shows the address of where you want to go. This should help you check if you are being sent to the right place.

If you’re opening emails on your mobile phone, you can just press and hold the button, and a pop-up window will appear with the link to make sure it’s real.

Check for poor grammar or spelling mistakes

Another easy way to check if it’s a phishing scam is to check if there are any typos, bad grammar, or awkward wording. This is because the scammers may be from other countries where English isn’t their first language. They may be using online translation tools to change the message into other languages.

Legitimate companies will be working with their marketing teams to make sure any external communications are flawless. They’ll be double checking for grammatical errors or spelling mistakes and taking extra care over their emails. Of course, we are realistic and we know that typos and spelling errors can happen. But if you get an email that is full of mistakes, you should always ask yourself if it is the same as other emails you may have gotten from the same company.

Do logos appear in the email?

Do you get a gut feeling that it is legitimate or can you spot any potential red flags?

Keep in mind that these signs are not foolproof and that attackers are always changing their methods.

When dealing with suspicious emails, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

A hacker working with a computerThe consequences of falling for a phishing attack

Falling for a phishing attack can have severe consequences, both personally and professionally. Here are some potential outcomes of falling victim to a phishing attack:

Financial loss

Often, the goal of a phishing attack is to get financial information, like credit card numbers or login information for online banking. If they are successful, attackers can get into your accounts without your permission and steal your money.

Identity theft

Phishers may use the information they get to pretend to be you or sell your personal information on the dark web. In a worst-case scenario, a hacker could steal your identity.

Data breaches

If an employee falls for a phishing attack, it could lead to a data breach. Attackers could get access to sensitive customer data, employee records, or intellectual property. There have been some extremely high-profile data breaches recently, but it’s essential to know that most hackers will focus their efforts on small businesses like you.

That’s because they know that you’ll have lower defences, and they’ll be more likely to be able to push past your barriers.

Reminder: If you know about a data breach, you must tell the ICO right away. If you don’t, you will be breaking GDPR law. Your business could get a big fine if you can’t show that you’ve taken steps to keep people from getting to your data.

Malware infections

When you click on an attachment or link in a phishing email, malware is often downloaded onto your device. Malware can let attackers get remote access to your computer, which lets them watch what you do, steal more information, or use your device to launch more attacks.

It worries us when businesses install third-party software solutions into their systems because it creates new vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit. If you’ve recently invested in a new system, make sure you let your external IT support team know, so we can double check that there are no weaknesses within your system.

Account hacking

Once a hacker has gained your login information, they can get into your social media, email, or cloud storage accounts without your permission. This could be extremely dangerous and could put your business, or your personal identity at risk.

text concept button on a computer keyboard with the word fraud preventionStrategies to prevent phishing attacks

Phishing attacks can be stopped by educating users, putting in place strong security measures, and regular software updates. By using the following strategies, you can greatly reduce your chances of falling for phishing attacks.
Educating employees about phishing

One of the best ways to stop phishing attacks is to teach yourself and your team about the newest phishing tricks and how to spot them.

Here at Lucid Systems, we can give you the tools you need to hold regular training sessions with your team. These sessions can cover things like how to spot suspicious emails, how to spot phishing websites, and what happens if you fall for a phishing attack.

As part of your education you need to make sure that your employees know what to do if they thought they had seen a phishing scam.

Simply deleting and ignoring it is not enough – even if they didn’t click on a link.

You need to alert your IT team so they can be vigilant to potential issues in case another employee did click on a link.

Implementing email security measures

Putting in place strong email security measures can make it much less likely that phishing emails will end up in your inbox. It’s why we recommend software solutions such as Barracuda; they prevent harmful emails from reaching your inbox in the first place.

Checking you have the latest updates.

As well as checking that your email settings have strict controls to keep you safe we can make sure that all of your software and operating systems are up-to-date. By proactively checking that there are no security holes in legacy software or third-party platform conflicts, we can improve your security defences throughout your entire IT system.

Using multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) increases the security of your accounts by requiring more than one way to prove who you are before letting you in.

By turning on MFA, even if an attacker gets your login information through phishing, they still won’t be able to get in without the extra verification factor, like a unique code sent direct to your phone. This significantly lowers the risk of unauthorised access, because even if an attacker gets your credentials, they won’t have the second part of the login, and you will be alerted to an unauthorised attempt.

As standard, all of our clients use MFA on their systems for all logins.

If you’re not sure how to set up multi-factor authentication on your device, please get in touch.

Lucid Systems will protect your business from phishing scams

Phishing attacks continue to pose a significant threat in today’s digital landscape.

But you can stay one step ahead of cybercriminals if you understand the different types of phishing attacks, know how to spot phishing emails, and implement effective prevention strategies.

Knowing how to avoid a phishing scam isn’