The Rising Threat of Phishing Attacks on UK Businesses
In the digital age, where technology connects people and businesses across the globe, the threat of cyberattacks, particularly phishing attacks, is on the rise. Phishing attacks have been a constant concern for businesses in the United Kingdom, with attackers continually evolving their tactics to compromise sensitive information. This blog explores the alarming surge in attempted phishing attacks on businesses in the UK, delving into the costs, common tactics, and protective measures that can be taken to safeguard your organisation.
The Cost of Phishing
Phishing attacks not only compromise the security of your business but also have substantial financial implications. According to a recent news story by the BBC, attacks have cost UK businesses millions. In the news article titled “UK firms hit by rising tide of phishing attacks,” it was reported that businesses in the UK were grappling with a substantial financial impact due to phishing attacks. In the first half of 2023, over £1.2 billion was lost due to cyberattacks, affecting businesses across the nation.
The cost of attacks can be measured in both monetary and non-monetary terms. Direct financial losses occur when attackers succeed in tricking employees into revealing sensitive financial information, resulting in fraudulent transactions or extortion. The loss of trust and reputation damage can be equally devastating, leading to a loss in customer trust and future business opportunities. The potential impact of reputational damage means many organisations fail to report attempted attacks, which in turn makes it harder to track down and punish the perpetrators.
Phishing attacks can take place through various mediums, with email and phone calls being the most common methods. Let’s take a closer look at how these tactics work:
1. Via Email: Attackers send fraudulent emails that mimic legitimate sources, such as your bank or a trusted vendor. These emails typically contain enticing subject lines, urging recipients to act immediately, such as clicking on a link, downloading an attachment, or providing personal information. They often use spoofed email addresses that look remarkably similar to the genuine source.
2. Via Phone Calls: In phone-based phishing, also known as vishing, attackers call their victims, often posing as a trustworthy authority figure or a colleague. They employ social engineering techniques to manipulate victims into revealing sensitive information or taking actions like transferring money or downloading malicious software.
Protecting Your Business
When you are racing against deadlines and trying to meet customer demands, it is easy to become distracted. Before clicking on or opening any unexpected message, employees should consider the following precautions:
1. Verify the Sender: Always double-check the sender’s email address or phone number. Be cautious of minor variations in domain names, as attackers often use them to impersonate legitimate entities.
2. Beware of Urgency: Phishing emails often contain urgent calls to action, urging recipients to act immediately. Take your time to verify the authenticity of the message, especially when it requests sensitive information or transactions.
3. Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Implement MFA for all sensitive accounts. Even if an attacker gains access to your password, MFA adds an extra layer of protection.
4. Practice Good Password Hygiene: Use unique, strong passwords that contain numbers, letters, and symbols, don’t use the same password across multiple platforms, change passwords regularly and don’t share passwords with others.
5. Educate Employees: Regularly train your employees on recognising phishing attempts. Conduct mock phishing exercises to help them identify and respond appropriately to suspicious emails and phone calls.
‘Tis The Season
Phishing attacks tend to peak during the busy holiday season, including Black Friday, December, and January. These periods see an increase in deceptive tactics, often involving fake package notifications and emails purporting to be from trusted organisations like HMRC:
1. Black Friday: As shoppers scramble for deals and promotions during the Black Friday sales, phishing attackers seize the opportunity to send fake offers, discount codes, and delivery notifications to unsuspecting consumers.
2. December: With the holiday season in full swing, phishing attacks take on a festive disguise, with emails appearing to be from loyalty schemes, gift card giveaways, and holiday e-cards. These deceptive tactics prey on the goodwill and generosity of the season.
3. January: As people return to work after the holidays, January becomes a prime time for phishing emails posing as tax authorities, like HMRC, demanding payments or personal information. These attacks play on the fear of tax-related consequences.
The rise in attempted phishing attacks on businesses in the UK is a pressing concern that demands attention and proactive measures. These attacks can be financially crippling and damage a business’s reputation. By understanding common tactics, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to these attacks. As we approach peak phishing seasons like Black Friday, December, and January, it is crucial to stay vigilant and think twice before clicking on or opening any unexpected message. If you suspect an email is suspicious, report and delete it.