There is a reason why phishing is usually at the top of the list for security awareness training. For the last decade or two, it has been the main delivery method for all types of attacks. Ransomware, credential theft, database breaches, and more launch via a phishing email.

Why has phishing remained such a large threat for so long? Because it continues to work. Scammers evolve their methods as technology progresses. They use AI-based tactics to make targeted phishing more efficient, for example.

If phishing didn’t continue working, then scammers would move on to another type of attack. But that hasn’t been the case. People continue to get tricked. They open malicious file attachments, click on dangerous links, and reveal passwords.

In May of 2021, phishing attacks increased by 281%. Then in June, they spiked another 284% higher.

Studies show that as soon as 6 months after training, phishing detection skills wane. Employees begin forgetting what they've learned, and cybersecurity suffers as a result.

Want to give employees a “hook” they can use for memory retention? Introduce the SLAM method of phishing identification.

What is the SLAM Method for Phishing Identification?

One of the mnemonic devices known to help people remember information is the use of an acronym. SLAM is an acronym for four key areas of an email message to check before trusting it.

These are:

S = Sender
L = Links
A = Attachments
M = Message text

By giving people the term “SLAM” to use, it’s quicker for them to check suspicious email. This device helps them avoid missing something important. All they need to do use the cues in the acronym.

Check the Sender

It’s important to check the sender of an email thoroughly. Often scammers will either spoof an email address or use a look-alike. People often mistake a spoofed address for the real thing.

In this phishing email below, the email address domain is “@emcom.bankofamerica.com.” The scammer is impersonating Bank of America. This is one way that scammers try to trick you, by putting the real company’s URL inside their fake one.

Check the Sender

You can see that the email is very convincing. It has likely fooled many people into divulging their personal details. People applying for a credit card provide a Social Security Number, income, and more.

Doing a quick search on the email address, quickly reveals it to be a scam. And a trap used in both email and SMS phishing attacks.

Scam Email search

It only takes a few seconds to type an email address into Google. This allows you to see if any scam warnings come up indicating a phishing email.

Hover Over Links Without Clicking

Hyperlinks are popular to use in emails. They can often get past antivirus/anti-malware filters. Those filters are looking for file attachments that contain malware. But a link to a malicious site doesn’t contain any dangerous code. Instead, it links to a site that does.

Links can be in the form of hyperlinked words, images, and buttons in an email. When on a computer, it’s important to hover over links without clicking on them to reveal the true URL. This often can immediately call out a fake email scam.

Hover over links without clicking

When looking at email on a mobile device, it can be trickier to see the URL without clicking on it. There is no mouse like there is with a PC. In this case, it’s best not to click the URL at all. Instead go to the purported site to check the validity of the message.

Never Open Unexpected or Strange File Attachments

File attachments are still widely used in phishing emails. Messages may have them attached, promising a large sale order. The recipient might see a familiar word document and open it without thinking.

It’s getting harder to know what file formats to avoid opening. Cybercriminals have become savvier about infecting all types of documents with malware. There have even been PDFs with malware embedded.

Never open strange or unexpected file attachments. Use an antivirus/anti-malware application to scan all attachments before opening.

Read the Message Carefully

We’ve gotten great at scanning through text as technology has progressed. It helps us quickly process a lot of incoming information each day. But if you rush through a phishing email, you can miss some telltale signs that it’s a fake.

Look at the phishing example posted above in the “Links” section. There is a small error in grammar in the second sentence. Did you spot it?

It says, “We confirmation that your item has shipped,” instead of “We confirm that your item has shipped.” These types of errors can be hard to spot but are a big red flag that the email is not legitimate.

Get Help Combatting Phishing Attacks

Both awareness training and security software can improve your defenses against phishing attacks. Contact us today to discuss your email security needs.

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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

How many text messages from companies do you receive today as compared to about two years ago? If you’re like many people, it’s quite a few more.

This is because retailers have begun bypassing bloated email inboxes. They are urging consumers to sign up for SMS alerts for shipment tracking and sale notices. The medical industry has also joined the trend. Pharmacies send automated refill notices and doctor’s offices send SMS appointment reminders.

These kinds of texts can be convenient. But retail stores and medical practices aren’t the only ones grabbing your attention by text. Cybercriminal groups are also using text messaging to send out phishing.

Phishing by SMS is “smishing,” and it’s becoming a major problem.

Case in point, in 2020, smishing rose by 328%, and during the first six months of 2021, it skyrocketed nearly 700% more. Phishing via SMS has become a big risk area. Especially as companies adjust data security to a more remote and mobile workforce.

How Can I Text Myself?

If you haven’t yet received a text message only to find your own phone number as the sender, then you likely will soon. This smishing scam is fast making the rounds and results in a lot of confusion. Confusion is good for scammers. It often causes people to click a malicious link in a message to find out more details.

Cybercriminals can make it look like a text message they sent you is coming from your number. They use VoIP connections and clever spoofing software.

If you ever see this, it’s a big giveaway that this is an SMS phishing scam. You should not interact with the message in any way and delete it instead. Some carriers will also offer the option to delete and report a scam SMS.

Popular Smishing Scams to Watch Out For

Smishing is very dangerous right now because many people are not aware of it. There’s a false sense of security. People think only those they have given it to will have their phone number.

But this isn’t the case. Mobile numbers are available through both legitimate and illegitimate methods. Advertisers can buy lists of them online. Data breaches that expose customer information are up for grabs on the Dark Web. This includes mobile numbers.

Less than 35% of the population knows what smishing is.

It’s important to understand that phishing email scams are morphing. They've evolved into SMS scams that may look different and be harder to detect.

For example, you can’t check the email address to see if it’s legitimate. Most people won't know the legitimate number that Amazon shipping updates come from.

Text messages also commonly use those shortened URLs. These mask the true URL, and it’s not as easy to hover over it to see it on a phone as it is on a computer.

You need to be aware of what’s out there. Here are some of the popular phishing scams that you may see in your own text messages soon.

Problem With a Delivery

Who doesn’t love getting packages? This smishing scam leverages that fact and purports to be from a known shipper like USPS or FedEx. It states that there is a package held up for delivery to you because it needs more details.

The link can take users to a form that captures personal information used for identity theft. One tactic using this scam is to ask for a small monetary sum to release a package. Scammers created the site to get your credit card number.

Fake Appointment Scheduling

This scam happened to a community in South Carolina. They had recently had an installation of AT&T fiber internet lines in their neighborhood. Following the installation, AT&T did a customer drive to sign people up for the service.

During this time, one homeowner reported that he received a text message. It pretended to be from AT&T about scheduling his fiber internet installation. He thought it was suspicious because the address they gave was wrong. The scammer had wanted him to text back personal details.

Get Your Free Gift

Another recent smishing scam is a text message that doesn’t say who it’s from. It says, “Thank you for your recent payment. Here is a free gift for you.” It includes a link at the bottom of the message.

This is a widespread scam that many have noted online. And it’s an example of a scammer using a common fact. The fact that most people would’ve paid some type of bill recently and mistake the text to be from a company they know. It also lures people in with the promise of giving them a free gift.

Does Your Mobile Device Have the Security It Needs?

Smishing scams are very clever and can easily infect your device with malware. Do you have the proper security precautions (mobile antivirus, DNS filtering, etc.)?

If not, give us a call. We can help!

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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

You’ve completed your annual phishing training. This includes teaching employees how to spot phishing emails. You’re feeling good about it. That is until about 5-6 months later. Your company suffers a costly ransomware infection due to a click on a phishing link.

You wonder why you seem to need to train on the same information every year. But you still suffer from security incidents. The problem is that you’re not training your employees often enough.

People can’t change behaviors if training isn’t reinforced. They can also easily forget what they’ve learned after several months go by.

So, how often is often enough to improve your team’s cybersecurity awareness? It turns out that training every four months is the “sweet spot.” This is when you see more consistent results in your IT security.

Why Is Cybersecurity Awareness Training Each 4-Months Recommended?

So, where does this four-month recommendation come from? There was a study presented at the USENIX SOUPS security conference recently. It looked at users’ ability to detect phishing emails versus training frequency. It looked at training on phishing awareness and IT security.

Employees took phishing identification tests at several different time increments:

The study found that four months after their training scores were good. Employees were still able to accurately identify and avoid clicking on phishing emails. But after 6-months, their scores started to get worse. Scores continued to decline the more months that passed after their initial training.

To keep employees well prepared, they need training and refreshers on security awareness. This will help them to act as a positive agent in your cybersecurity strategy.

Tips on What & How to Train Employees to Develop a Cybersecure Culture

The gold standard for security awareness training is to develop a cybersecure culture. This is one where everyone is cognizant of the need to protect sensitive data. As well as avoid phishing scams, and keep passwords secured.

This is not the case in most organizations, According to the 2021 Sophos Threat Report. One of the biggest threats to network security is a lack of good security practices.

The report states the following,

“A lack of attention to one or more aspects of basic security hygiene has been found to be at the root cause of many of the most damaging attacks we've investigated.”

Well-trained employees significantly reduce a company’s risk. They reduce the chance of falling victim to any number of different online attacks. To be well-trained doesn’t mean you have to conduct a long day of cybersecurity training. It’s better to mix up the delivery methods.

Here are some examples of engaging ways to train employees on cybersecurity. You can include these in your training plan:

When conducting training, phishing is a big topic to cover, but it’s not the only one. Here are some important topics that you want to include in your mix of awareness training.

Phishing by Email, Text & Social Media

Email phishing is still the most prevalent form. But SMS phishing (“smishing”) and phishing over social media are both growing. Employees must know what these look like, so they can avoid falling for these sinister scams.

Credential & Password Security

Many businesses have moved most of their data and processes to cloud-based platforms. This has led to a steep increase in credential theft because it’s the easiest way to breach SaaS cloud tools.

Credential theft is now the #1 cause of data breaches globally. This makes it a topic that is critical to address with your team. Discuss the need to keep passwords secure and the use of strong passwords. Also, help them learn tools like a business password manager.

Mobile Device Security

Mobile devices are now used for a large part of the workload in a typical office. They’re handy for reading and replying to an email from anywhere. Most companies will not even consider using software these days if it doesn’t have a great mobile app.

Review security needs for employee devices that access business data and apps. Such as securing the phone with a passcode and keeping it properly updated.

Data Security

Data privacy regulations are something else that has been rising over the years. Most companies have more than one data privacy regulation requiring compliance.

Train employees on proper data handling and security procedures. This reduces the risk you'll fall victim to a data leak or breach that can end up in a costly compliance penalty.

Need Help Keeping Your Team Trained on Cybersecurity?

Take training off your plate and train your team with cybersecurity professionals. We can help you with an engaging training program. One that helps your team change their behaviors to improve cyber hygiene.

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The number of internet-connected devices in homes has been growing. It's increased exponentially over the last decade. A typical home now has 10.37 devices connected to the internet. PCs and mobile devices make up a little over half of those and the rest are IoT devices.

IoT stands for Internet of Things. It means any other type of “smart device” that connects online. IoT devices in a home can be everything from your streaming stick to your smart refrigerator. Smart baby monitors and Alexa voice assistants are also IoT.

There's also been another change that has happened over the last couple of years. It has been the increase in remote and hybrid work. The pandemic caused a major shift in where we work, turning the standard office paradigm on its head.

Now, working remotely has become the norm for many companies around the world. This has put increased scrutiny on the security of all those IoT devices. They are now sharing a Wi-Fi network with business data and devices.

Here are two alarming statistics that illustrate the issue with IoT security:

Hackers Use IoT Devices to Get to Computers & Smartphones

Smart devices are a risk to any other device on a network. They are typically easier to breach. So, hackers will use them as a gateway into more sensitive devices.

A criminal may not care about the shopping list stored in your smart refrigerator. But they’ll breach that IoT device to see what other devices are on the same network.

The hacker can then use sharing and permissions that are often present on home networks. Through these, they gain access to your work computer or mobile device. These devices hold important data, and access to personal details.

Why are IoT devices less secure than computers and smartphones? Here are a few reasons:

Improve Security by Putting IoT on a Separate Wi-Fi Network

Just about all modern routers will have the ability to set up a second Wi-Fi network, called a “guest network.” This shows up when you connect to Wi-Fi as a separate Wi-Fi that a device can use to get online.

Separate Wi-Fi

By putting all your IoT devices on a separate network you improve security. You cut that bridge that hackers use to go from an IoT device to another device on the same network. Such as those that hold sensitive information (computers and mobile devices).

In fact, when you separate those two (IoT devices and sensitive-info devices) a hacker can't see all. If they breach one of your smart devices, they can't tell you have a PC or smartphone. This is because they’re on the other network.

This is an important layer of security to use. Whether you’re a remote worker or use your computer for home budgeting and banking, it can help. All PCs and smartphones usually contain access to online banking or personal information.

Here are the steps to take to separate your IoT devices. (Note, you can also have this done by us, we’ll be happy to handle all these steps for you.)

As you add any new devices to your home network, make sure to connect them to the appropriate network. This keeps the layer of security effective.

One more tip: When naming your Wi-Fi networks, don’t use descriptive names. This includes things like “IoT network” or your name, address, or router model name.

It’s best to use names that won’t give the hackers valuable information they can use in attacks.

Need Help Upgrading Your Home Cybersecurity?

With so many remote workers, hackers have begun targeting home networks. They know they can contain sensitive business as well as personal data. Don’t leave yourself open to a breach. Schedule a home internet security review today!

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Credential theft is now at an all-time high and is responsible for more data breaches than any other type of attack.

With data and business processes now largely cloud-based, a user’s password is the quickest and easiest way to conduct many different types of dangerous activities.

Being logged in as a user (especially if they have admin privileges) can allow a criminal to send out phishing emails from your company account to your staff and customers. The hacker can also infect your cloud data with ransomware and demand thousands of dollars to give it back.

How do you protect your online accounts, data, and business operations? One of the best ways is with multi-factor authentication (MFA).

It provides a significant barrier to cybercriminals even if they have a legitimate user credential to log in. This is because they most likely will not have access to the device that receives the MFA code required to complete the authentication process.

What Are the Three Main Methods of MFA?

When you implement multi-factor authentication at your business, it’s important to compare the three main methods of MFA and not just assume all methods are the same. There are key differences that make some more secure than others and some more convenient.

Let’s take a look at what these three methods are:

SMS-based

The form of MFA that people are most familiar with is SMS-based. This one uses text messaging to authenticate the user.

The user will typically enter their mobile number when setting up MFA. Then, whenever they log into their account, they will receive a text message with a time-sensitive code that must be entered. 

On-device Prompt in an App

Another type of multi-factor authentication will use a special app to push through the code. The user still generates the MFA code at login, but rather than receiving the code via SMS, it’s received through the app.

This is usually done via a push notification, and it can be used with a mobile app or desktop app in many cases.

Security Key

The third key method of MFA involves using a separate security key that you can insert into a PC or mobile device to authenticate the login. The key itself is purchased at the time the MFA solution is set up and will be the thing that receives the authentication code and implements it automatically.

The MFA security key is typically smaller than a traditional thumb drive and must be carried by the user to authenticate when they log into a system.

Now, let’s look at the differences between these three methods.

Most Convenient Form of MFA?

Users can often feel that MFA is slowing them down. This can be worse if they need to learn a new app or try to remember a tiny security key (what if they lose that key?).

This user inconvenience can cause companies to leave their cloud accounts less protected by not using multi-factor authentication.

If you face user pushback and are looking for the most convenient form of MFA, it would be the SMS-based MFA.

Most people are already used to getting text messages on their phones so there is no new interface to learn and no app to install.

Most Secure Form of MFA?

If your company handles sensitive data in a cloud platform, such as your online accounting solution, then it may be in your best interest to go for security.

The most secure form of MFA is the security key.

The security key, being a separate device altogether, won’t leave your accounts unprotected in the event of a mobile phone being lost or stolen. Both the SMS-based and app-based versions would leave your accounts at risk in this scenario.

The SMS-based is actually the least secure because there is malware out there now that can clone a SIM card, which would allow a hacker to get those MFA text messages.

A Google study looked at the effectiveness of these three methods of MFA at blocking three different types of attacks. The security key was the most secure overall.

Percentage of attacks blocked:

What’s in Between?

So, where does the app with an on-device prompt fit in? Right in between the other two MFA methods.

Using an MFA application that delivers the code via push notification is more secure than the SMS-based MFA. It’s also more convenient than needing to carry around a separate security key that could quickly become lost or misplaced.

Looking for Help Setting Up MFA at Your Company?

Multi-factor authentication is a “must-have” solution in today’s threat climate. Let’s discuss your barrier points and come up with a solution together to keep your cloud environment better secured.

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Smartphones and tablets are often the preferred device for communications, web searching, and accessing many types of apps. They’re more portable and can be used from anywhere.

We’re seeing the takeover of many activities that used to be performed on traditional computers. Now, people are using mobile devices instead.

For example, Microsoft estimates that up to 80% of the workload in many enterprise organizations is now done via mobile devices. Over half of all web searches are also now conducted from a mobile device rather than a desktop PC.

This has caused mobile devices to become more targeted over the past few years. As hackers realize they’re holding many of the same sensitive information and app access as PCs, they’ve been creating mobile malware and other exploits to breach mobile devices.

In 2020, approximately 36.5% of organizations were impacted by mobile malware and 2.5 million people unknowingly downloaded multiple mobile adware apps.

It’s important to start treating mobile devices in the same way as you do computers when it comes to their security. Smartphones and tablets need the same types of security precautions in place, including:

You need to be on the lookout for the most prevalent mobile device threats that allow your data to be leaked or breached. Here’s a roundup of what those are.

1. Mobile Malware Hidden in Apps

It’s not easy at first glance to tell the difference between a legitimate free app and one that has malware hidden inside.

Scammers will use the same types of flashy graphics, and the app may even have a high star rating (most likely boosted through suspicious means). The app may even do what it says it will do when downloaded.

But malware can be hidden in the background, infecting a device as soon as the app is installed. And many of these apps will hide once on your phone or tablet by using the icon of a common default system app (like settings or calendar).

Mobile malware can include all the same types of malware that can infect a computer, such as ransomware, adware, spyware, trojans, and more.

2. Unprotected Communications

Have you ever sent someone a password or credit card details over a text message or messaging app? Did you check to see if the communication was encrypted?

Many users will use various methods of communication from their mobile devices without knowing how secure those methods are. If sensitive information is transmitted and it’s not encrypted, then a hacker could easily intercept it.

3. Public Wi-Fi & Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

Public Wi-Fi has long been known to be non-secure, yet people still use it when it’s available. They want to save their mobile minutes or get a faster connection.

75% of people admit to connecting to email when on public Wi-Fi. Other activities people will do is sign into apps (even sensitive ones like online banking), and shop online, entering credit card details.

If you’re on public Wi-Fi, then you’re at high risk of a man-in-the-middle attack. This is when a hacker connects to the same network and looks for victims with unprotected communications. They can then capture any type of data they’re transmitting.

One way to safely connect to public Wi-Fi is to use a VPN app, which will encrypt your communications.

4. Juice Jacking on Public USB Charging Stations

Another public mobile breach danger is public USB charging stations. These are often welcome sights especially if you’re low on battery power. However, hackers can infect public USB charging ports with malware and set up fake charging stations in public areas.

Then, when you insert your USB cord to charge your device, the malware is copying all the data on your phone and/or infecting it with malicious code. See, USB cables aren’t just for charging, they are also used for data transmission.

It’s best to avoid public USB charging ports and charge with your power adapter that plugs into an outlet instead. You can also buy a “charge-only” USB cord to use if USB charging is your only option.

5. Non-Updated Devices

Approximately 40% of Android devices are running outdated operating systems that no longer get vital security updates.

When your mobile device is not kept updated, then it’s easier for a hacker to use an exploit that takes advantage of a code vulnerability in the OS or one of the installed apps.

Many companies aren’t paying attention to how many employees’ work devices are running current operating systems, which puts their networks at higher risk of a breach.

You should ensure that all your apps and your OS are kept updated because many of these updates include critical security patches.

Ask Us About Mobile Device Security Solutions

With mobile devices handling so much of the computing workload these days, it’s vital they’re properly protected. Contact us to discuss mobile security and management solutions.

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Approximately 34% of businesses take a week or longer to regain access to their data and systems once hit with a malware attack.

Malware is an umbrella term that encompasses many different types of malicious code. It can include:

The longer that malware sits on your system unchecked, the more damage it can do. Most forms of malware have a directive built in to spread to as many systems as possible. So, if not caught and removed right away, one computer could end up infecting 10 more on the same network in no time.

Early detection is key so you can disconnect an infected device from your network and have it properly cleaned by a professional.

Keep an eye out for these key warning signs of malware infection so you can jump into action and reduce your risk.

Strange Popups on Your Desktop

Some forms of malware can take on the disguise of being an antivirus app or warranty notice that pops up on your screen. Hackers try to mimic things that users may have seen from a legitimate program, so they’ll be more apt to click without thinking.

If you begin to see a strange “renew your antivirus” subscription alert or a warranty renewal that doesn’t quite make sense, these could be signs that your PC has been infected with adware or another type of malware.

New Sluggish Behavior

Computers can become sluggish for a number of reasons, including having too many browser tabs open at once or running a memory-intensive program. But you’ll typically know your computer and the types of things that slow it down.

If you notice new sluggish behavior that is out of the ordinary, this could be an infection. One example would be if you don’t have any programs open except notepad or another simple app, and yet you experience freezing.

When malware is running in the background, it can often eat up system resources and cause your system to get sluggish.

Applications Start Crashing

Applications should not just crash out of the blue. There is always a reason. Either the software is faulty, there’s been an issue with an update, or something else may be messing with that application’s files.

If you suddenly experience apps crashing, requiring you to restart the app or reboot your system, this is another telltale sign that a virus, trojan, or other malicious code has been introduced.

Your Browser Home Page is Redirected

If you open your browser and land on a homepage that is not the one you normally see, have your PC scanned for malware right away. Redirecting a home page is a common ploy of certain types of malware.

The malware will infect your system and change the system setting for your default browser home page. This may lead you to a site filled with popup ads or to another type of phishing site.

Just trying to change your homepage back in your settings won’t fix the situation. It’s important to have the malware removed.

Sudden Reboots

Another annoying trait of certain types of malicious code is to make your system reboot without warning.

This can cause you to lose the work you’ve just done and can make it difficult to get anything done. This may happen when malware is changing core system files behind the scenes. With files corrupted, your system becomes unstable and can often reboot unexpectedly.

You’re Missing Hard Drive Space

If you find that a good deal of your hard drive space that used to be open is now gone, it could be a malware infection taking up your space. Some types of malware may make copies of files or introduce new files into your system.

They will cleverly hide, so don’t expect to see the word “malware” on a file search. Instead, the dangerous activities will usually be masked by a generic-sounding name that you mistake for a normal system file.

You Run Across Corrupted Files

If you open a file and find it corrupted, this could be a red flag that ransomware or another form of malware has infected your system.

While files can occasionally become corrupt for other reasons, this is a serious issue that deserves a thorough malware scan if you see it.

PC “Processing Sounds” When There Shouldn’t Be

Most of us are familiar with those “thinking sounds” when our computer is processing something memory intensive. You’ll usually hear a type of whirring that will go away once you finish that activity.

If you begin hearing this processing sound when you’re not doing anything particularly intense on your computer, this could be a sign that malware is running in the background and it should be checked out.

Get Expert Malware Scanning & Removal

Free online malware and virus scans aren’t very reliable. Instead, come to a professional that can ensure your entire system is cleaned properly.

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