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How to Defend Remote Employees Against Phishing Scams

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For a long time, employees were protected by digital castle walls erected by the IT department around the physical office. Now that many of the same employees have transitioned to remote work arrangements, they’re like soldiers marching across an open field under constant artillery fire in the form of phishing scams.

But just because remote employees are much more exposed than their office-bound counterparts doesn’t mean they’re entirely defenseless. There’s a lot that employees themselves, as well as the organizations they work for, can do to avoid being picked off one by one by phishers.

Main Types of Phishing Scams Targeting Remote Employees

There’s more to phishing scams than princes from Nigeria who have somehow found themselves in urgent need of cash. Let’s take a quick look at the main types of phishing scams all remote employees are likely to encounter sooner or later:

Regular Phishing:

When phishers cast large nets by sending the same messages to many small fish as they can, we talk about regular phishing, whose purpose is to deceive people into sharing personal information, downloading malware, or both.

Spear Phishing:

Phishers also target specific people by sending them carefully crafted messages that are much more difficult to detect than regular phishing emails. Such messages are often aimed at large whales—senior executives and important government officials—which is why this kind of phishing is sometimes referred to as whaling.

Business Email Compromise (BEC):

Spear phishing attacks that imitate trusted business contacts to trick employees into sending money or divulging confidential company info are called Business Email Compromise (BEC).

SMS Phishing:

Phishing attacks don't rely on email. When cybercriminals get hold of an employee's phone number, they don't hesitate to bombard it with fake SMS messages. This type of phishing is called smishing, a wordplay on the words "SMS" and "phishing."

Phone Call Phishing:

Likewise, cybercriminals may use phone calls to deceive employees into providing sensitive information or executing certain actions. This type of phishing is referred to as vishing, a play on the words "voice" and "phishing."

Protective Measures to Defend Remote Employees Against Phishing Scams

Phishing scams exploit the fact that employees are often the weakest link in the cybersecurity defense chain. Strengthening this link should be the main objective of any protective measures implemented to defend remote employees against phishing scams. Here are five ways to achieve this goal:

1. Provide Remote Employees With Cybersecurity Awareness Training

Cybercriminals prey on those who are unprepared, so it's paramount for remote employees to regularly exercise their digital muscles by undergoing cybersecurity awareness training sessions. The content of such sessions should help remote employees:

Recognize phishing scams

Report it to the appropriate personnel

Protect sensitive information

Practice safe browsing

Understand the importance of proper password management

2. Strengthen Your Email Security

Most phishing attacks reach remote workers via email. To make it more difficult for them to do so, organizations should strengthen their email security by setting up the following email standards:

Sender Policy Framework (SPF):

Outlines which servers and domains are authorized to send emails on behalf of your organization.

DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM):

Incorporates a digital signature into each outgoing message, which enables receiving servers to confirm the origin of the message.

Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC):

Gives instructions to receiving servers on how to handle outgoing messages from your organization that do not meet the criteria set by SPF or DKIM.

In addition to these email standards, organizations should implement anti-spam and anti-malware filtering for inbound email messages. Those who would like to go a step further can take advantage of technologies like Microsoft’s Safe Links, which provides URL scanning and rewriting of inbound email messages.

3. Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

A common goal of phishing attacks aimed at remote employees is to steal their passwords and use them as keys to protected systems. Multi-factor authentication can be implemented to protect such systems with additional locks in the form of secondary authentication factors, such as codes sent to mobile devices, hardware OTP (one-time password) tokens, or biometric verification.

By requiring secondary authentication factors, organizations can ensure that even if a phisher is able to steal a password, they will not be able to gain access to protected systems. This reduces the risk of a security incident and the resulting consequences, such as data theft or financial loss.

4. Enable Call and Text Screening on Mobile Devices

As we've explained earlier in this article, phishing attacks are not limited to email messages, and they can also be performed using voice calls and text messages. That's why organizations should enable call and text screening on employees' mobile devices.

Call and text screening can significantly decrease the number of vishing calls and smishing messages that reach employees, making it far less likely to fall for such attacks. Some mobile devices support call and text screening natively, and the functionality can also be added using third-party apps.

5. Update Your Remote Access and Acceptable Use Policies

Any organization that allows some or all employees to work remotely should have a well-thought-out remote access policy in place to control who can access the network when working away from the office and under which conditions. For example, employees should be prohibited from logging in to internal systems from unsecured public Wi-Fi networks.

Employees should also be prohibited from using their own personal devices for work-related purposes or using their work devices for personal purposes without the IT department’s explicit approval, which is where acceptable use policy comes in.

TechGen Can Help Defend Your Remote Employees Against Phishing Scams!

In conclusion, phishing attacks are a major threat to remote employees and can have devastating consequences for organizations large and small. The good news is that there are solutions available that can help defend against these attacks, and we at TechGen can help you implement them.

Think of us as your trusted cybersecurity sidekick, always ready to protect your remote employees against phishers and other cybercriminals. With TechGen on your side, you can have peace of mind knowing that your remote workforce is safe and productive. Contact us today to take your cybersecurity to the next level.

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