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3 Key Strategies to Protect Against Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks - 3 key strategies to staying safe and secure

Phishing attacks pose a major threat your organization.

Just how dangerous are they? Phishing accounts for 80% of reported security incidents and as much as 94% of all malware delivery.

The sheer number of phishing attempts makes complete elimination difficult. However, you can drastically reduce your exposure with these three key strategies: email filters, email security protocols, and employee education.

Here’s how they all work.

Email Filtering

Email filtering might seem like old technology, but it’s proven.

You’ve got a variety of options, from the classic on-premise appliance to an SaaS service with a more global reach.

As more businesses move to the cloud, SaaS continues to grow in popularity. As it does, the number of benefits and features continues to expand.

Third-party email filtering vendors see spam from various industries – which poses a key advantage for your organization. With a broader view of spam patterns, those vendors learn from each client and apply their knowledge and experience to complex situations.

A wide variety of options exists, from open source solutions, to commercial tools. But before you settle for one, make sure to investigate options for other useful, related features.

Some of those features offer AI-supported filters, monitor for malicious websites who use your corporate logos, and actively mange accounts for signs of compromise.

Unfortunately, not all services work with on-premise mail servers, Office 365, or G-Suite. That means you’ll need to be sure to examine options carefully.

Overall, by implementing email filtering, you’ll greatly reduce the number of threats each employee faces.

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Email Server Settings

Between 2006 and 2014, three email security protocols were developed with the promise of dramatically limiting email attacks.

Unfortunately, many organizations still effectively use them or understand the benefits.

The Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) protocols all work together to block phishing and other spam emails.

While you can use these protocols independently, using all three in combination provides the best protection.

SPF, the most commonly applied protocol, limits who can use a domain to send emails and hardens DNS servers. SPF should be applied to each subdomain, and specify which ones are actually authorized to send email with the domain’s address.

The DKIM protocol adds information to email headers, certifying email verification and domain ownership, while also showing and that no one tampered with the emails.

Domain administrator then must enable certification via encryption keys, which are then added to the DNS servers.

DMARC builds upon the previous protocols to provide email authentication, verifying the other two are in place.

Additionally, the protocol provides instructions for how an email server should proceed when emails fail the DMARC protocol, and reports errors back to the host domain.

Despite a push from many governments (including our own U.S. Homeland Security Agency) and major email providers for the adoption of all three protocols, use of the complex DMARC protocol remains low.

Implementation can be tricky, with the potential to disrupt some email services.

Experts recommend implementing SPF and DKIM first. Then, monitor using DMARC to locate other potential email sources that use the organization’s domains.

Using these three protocols together will prevent an organization’s domain from being spoofed. Additionally, it helps the email server recognize other spoofed domains more effectively.

Educate Employees to Protect Against Phishing Attacks

Although implementing filtering and protocols helps to stop the number of phishing attacks, some still find ways through.

You’ll need to educate your team on which types of attacks are on the rise, and how to avoid enabling them.

For example, some spam senders use the “unsubscribe” option to capture valid email addresses for future attacks.

Others might send G-Suite files, because they know those files automatically render HTML. This can activate an attack to reroute to a lookalike webpage with malicious content.

Similarly, attackers send Microsoft Office files, urging viewers to “enable” the macro containing malicious code.

You can also educate your team internally by spreading current information. You’ll do this either informally or through cybersecurity education programs – such as anti-phishing education.

By tackling the human side of the phishing equation, you’ll dramatically reduce cybersecurity incidents.

The Takeaways

You can’t prevent every phishing attack, but you can keep the majority of them at bay by using these three strategies.

As with all aspects of cybersecurity, the best protection involves keeping current, staying informed, and remaining vigilant.

Some of these strategies are best implemented by using third-party software or services. But, others can be implemented directly by in-house experts.

However, effective implementation is often complex and time consuming. Want to keep your organization safe and secure 24/7/365 without the hassle?

At Ideal Integrations, we’re by your side around the clock. We’ll build your network, develop your systems, and protect your environment!

It all starts here, with a risk-free consultation. Complete the form below to connect with our team of networking and cybersecurity experts, or call us at 412-349-6680 if you’ve been breached.

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