Phishing is when attackers attempt to trick users into doing ‘the wrong thing’, such as clicking a bad link that will download malware, or direct them to a dodgy website. This can be conducted via a text message, social media, or by phone, but the term ‘phishing’ is mainly used to describe attacks that arrive by email. Phishing emails can reach millions of users directly, and hide amongst the huge number of benign emails that busy users receive. Attacks can install malware (such as ransomware), sabotage systems, or steal intellectual property and money.

These Phishing emails can hit an organisation of any size and type. You might get caught up in a mass campaign (where the attacker is just looking to collect some new passwords or make some easy money), or it could be the first step in a targeted attack against your company, where the aim could be something much more specific, like the theft of sensitive data. In a targeted campaign, the attacker may use information about your employees or company to make their messages even more persuasive and realistic. This is usually referred to as spear phishing.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has excellent guidance aimed at technology, operations or security staff responsible for designing and implementing defences for medium to large organisations. This includes staff responsible for phishing training. The mitigations included in the guidance require a combination of technological, process and people-based approaches which must be considered as a whole in order for defences to be at their most effective.

Though staff within smaller organisations may also find the guidance useful, they should refer to the NCSC’s Small Business Guide beforehand.

The guidance also concludes with a real-world example that illustrates how a multi-layered approach prevented a phishing attack from damaging a major financial-sector organisation.

ote: The mitigations included in this guidance require a combination of technological, process, and people-based approaches. They must be considered as a whole for your defences to be really effective. For example, if you want to encourage people to report suspicious emails, then you need to back that up with a technical means of doing so, and a process behind it that will provide timely feedback on the email they submitted.

The full guidance, together with an infographic on phishing and a case study can be found on the National Cyber Security Centre Website here.


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