How to spot a phishing email… and how to deal with it as an MSP

Ransomware Cyber Security Email Phishing

In 2022, there were over 255 million phishing attacks, a 61% increase over the previous year. Nearly a third of all attacks are being hosted on trusted services such as Microsoft, Amazon Web Services and Google, making them harder to detect. Geopolitical tensions have unleashed state attackers on a scale we’ve never seen before. Furthermore, with the advent of ChatGPT, many security experts believe these attacks will only increase in scope and complexity as technology evolves and the bar for cyber attackers is lowered.

We’re truly in the age of phishing scams. Caught in the middle are Managed Service Providers, doing everything they can to protect their clients from this phishing onslaught. What makes it especially difficult is that phishing attacks are designed to fool people, especially those who aren’t too familiar with technology. This article will help you educate your clients on how to spot a phishing email and what to do if they fall victim to an attack.

What are phishing emails?

Phishing emails are one of the most common ways that hackers try to steal your personal information. They are a type of social engineering attack that use deception to trick people into revealing sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. Phishing emails are often disguised as legitimate emails from a trusted organisation, making them difficult to spot. They may contain urgent language, asking the recipient to take immediate action, such as resetting a password or verifying account information.

What is spear phishing?

Spear phishing is a step beyond a regular phishing attack. If you imagine a phishing email like a large net, flung out into cyberspace to catch any unwitting prey, then a spear phishing attack is focused. The target will be thoroughly researched and attacked through email and social media. The impersonation will be highly authentic and, once complete, the attacker will have access to the victim’s networks.

One step further is whaling. Whaling is spear phishing aimed at C-level targets in the hope of extracting highly sensitive and lucrative information.

How to spot a phishing email

Although phishing emails are designed to fool people, there are some best practices that employees should be following to keep their inboxes safe. These include:

  • Check the sender’s email address.

Phishing emails often come from addresses that look similar to legitimate addresses, but they’re not quite right. If you hover over the sender’s name , you can see their full email address address. If you have any suspicions at all, don’t click on any links in the email and report it as spam to block the sender.

  • The email may contain typos or grammatical errors.

Phishing emails are often sent out in bulk, so they may not be proofread carefully. If you see many errors in the email, it’s a good sign that it’s not legitimate and caution is advised.

  • Urgent or threatening language.

Many phishing emails rely on inciting panic and will demand you take action immediately or else face dire consequences. Be wary of emails that use urgent or threatening language, such as “your account has been compromised” or “you must act now.”

  • Be wary of emails that ask for personal information.

Phishing emails often ask for personal information like your credit card number or passwords. Never give out this information in an email, even if the email looks like it’s from a legitimate company.

  • Look for suspicious links.

Phishing emails often contain links that take you to fake websites. If you click on a link in an email, make sure you verify that the website is legitimate before entering any personal information.

Education is your first and best defense against phishing attacks, but even the best of us can make a mistake and click a bad link. So, what should be done if a client falls victim to a phishing email?

How an MSP should respond to a successful phishing email

If you think your client has been the victim of a phishing attack, it’s important to take action immediately. Here are the steps you should take:

  1. Identify the source of the attack: The first step is to identify the source of the attack. This may involve looking at the email headers or tracking the IP address of the sender.
  2. Disconnect: If the attack was initiated from within the client’s network, disconnect the affected device or devices from the internet immediately to prevent further damage.
  3. Notify: Notify the client’s internal IT department or security team (if they have one) immediately. They should assist in the investigation of the attack and help determine the extent of the damage.
  4. Change Passwords: Change all passwords associated with the affected accounts. Make sure the new passwords are strong and unique.
  5. Scan for Malware: Use antivirus software to scan the affected device for malware. If malware is found, remove it immediately.
  6. Educate: The best way to prevent future phishing attacks is to educate your clients’ employees about how to spot them. Use the incident as an opportunity to educate the client on how to spot and avoid phishing attacks in the future. Provide training and resources to help employees stay vigilant.

Phishing attacks are a serious threat to businesses of all sizes. By being aware of the risks and taking steps to protect your clients, you can help keep them safe, and by following the tips in this article, MSPs can help their clients protect themselves from phishing scams.

However, as attacks become more frequent and more complex, MSPs need a partner they can rely on. inSOC’s One Stop SOC is the perfect defense, a full SOCaaS solution that uses the latest AI technology to proactively keep your clients safe. As previously mentioned, software only goes so far; that’s why inSOC also provides monthly threat assessment reporting and review meetings, keeping your clients informed and protecting them from the latest scams.

Book a free 15 minute meeting today to see how we can grow your MSP cybersecurity offerings.

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