Online Brand Protection: How Monitoring and User Education Can Help with Phishing

Phishing is an age-old yet still effective threat. Reports show that the volume of phishing attacks increased by 21% in the past quarter alone to reach 129.9 million. And most of the attacks involved email messages. Attackers exploit the human factor, easily tapping into victims’ emotional weaknesses to compromise their systems. Victims thus end up clicking malicious links and executing malware disguised as attachments due to curiosity, fear, or very enticing rewards.

Compromised companies incur million-dollar financial losses as a result of these crimes, but the long list of ill consequences doesn’t end there. The negative association of phishing attacks can linger for quite a long time. While impersonated brands are not directly to blame, the bad resulting PR may discourage victims from enlisting their services again. These harmful effects make anti-phishing best practices, including user education, a must for every business.

Monitor Your Brand and Domain Assets

Permanent solutions against phishing still prove elusive for most companies. However, being on the offensive, rather than being reactive to threats, may provide a long-term answer. Phishing and other forms of brand abuse like name jacking, piracy, and counterfeiting can be spotted at the outset by identifying their potential sources before they can inflict harm.

Patterns emerging from phishing attacks reveal actionable insights to threat investigators. For instance, email-related scams peak at certain times of the year, such as the tax season and festive occasions. Nefarious entities also use popular brands by mimicking their domains for phishing pages to reel in victims.

To proactively safeguard against brand abuse and other threats, cybersecurity experts recommend the following:

  1. Monitor social media channels and websites: Track where your brand, logo, and trademarks have appeared online with or without your consent so you can take appropriate action.
  2. Catch signs of brand abuse early: Contact potential infringers as soon as you identify their sites and social media accounts.
  3. Evaluate affiliates, third-party vendors, partners, and audiences for risks: Insider threats abound in any industry. Fans, website visitors, and partner vendors may not necessarily serve your best interest. Make assessing third-party risks a permanent part of your security strategy. It is an effective means toward avoiding supply chain attacks and keeping threat actors out of your network. Domain research and monitoring tools can help organizations find out more about third parties without being too intrusive.
  4. Install security software on endpoints: Computers and devices should always be scanned for potential threats. Ensure that all apps and software are updated to the latest version at all times.
  5. Use third-party tools: Apart from the usual social or web traffic analytics platform, organizations can employ a brand monitoring tool as well. It can, for instance, let users keep track of phishing sites and cybersquatters with its typos feature. By automatically generating a list of misspelled versions of a company’s domain, it would be easy to spot if any of the sites they’re tied to are using its brand for malicious activities.

User Education and Other Anti-phishing Recommendations

Good governance plays a significant role in reducing the severity of cyber attacks. Routine technology hygiene training and behavioral checks may seem excessive, but experts agree that they help reframe employees’ bad habits.

Security vendors advise employees to handle company assets conscientiously. Best practices include:

  1. Logging out of systems and email accounts at the end of the workday
  2. Refraining from logging in to corporate email addresses after office hours, especially when using public Wi-Fi access
  3. Limiting employee access to internal systems aided by IP geolocation
  4. Avoiding the use of company-owned devices for personal purposes such as chatting on unsafe messaging apps and questionable websites
  5. Blacklisting potentially harmful apps and websites on company-owned systems and devices using a domain’s reputation as the basis
  6. Disallowing the use of personal storage devices, which may be malware-infected, at work
  7. Verifying email addresses before replying to received emails, downloading attachments, and clicking embedded links
  8. Exercising due diligence before transferring money or sending sensitive information to an email sender
  9. Using strong passwords for all portals

Making employees aware of existing and latent threats makes all the difference in keeping organizations’ parameters and information secure. Early detection of brand abuse through constant monitoring can also put a damper on future phishing attacks. By protecting their brands, companies are not just safeguarding their own interests but also the security of their customers, partners, and other stakeholders.

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