What type of employee is susceptible to phishing?

by Mar 22, 2023Insights

While cyber security software is essential, it’s certainly possible that a hacker may get through your firewall at some point. Phishing attacks, which are designed to exploit human vulnerabilities, such as curiosity, fear and trust, rather than technical weaknesses in computer systems, are one of the most common cyber threats that businesses face today.

While all employees are susceptible to phishing attacks, certain individuals are certainly favoured by cyber criminals. One might assume that an inexperienced or junior employee is most susceptible to phishing. In fact, cyber criminals often prefer to target those who hold more power and access to valuable business data. Despite their higher competence or technical understanding, IT managers, security officers and even CEOs are not completely immune to phishing attacks and advanced social engineering techniques.  

High level employees are targeted by cyber criminals

Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly more sophisticated in their approach to phishing. By targeting employees that hold a lot of sensitive information, they often focus on high level executives and directors. 

The attack on senior executives is also known as whaling. This is a highly targeted type of phishing attack that prompts victims to take secondary actions, such as transferring funds or clicking on a site which delivers malware. Whaling attempts are more difficult to decipher from genuine emails than other phishing techniques. This is due to the professionalism and well-crafted business language used in the emails, as well as the resemblance to correspondence sent by other executives, business partners or customers. 

In addition to the fine-tuned formatting, phishing and whaling emails use emotional techniques by instilling a sense of fear or urgency. Even more convincing is when hackers mimic emails from legitimate sources by including highly personalised information about the individual or organisation.

These types of cyber attacks highlight the need for high level employees to attend user awareness training sessions and cyber security skills courses. 

Hybrid workers are susceptible to phishing

Another group of employee that is an easy target for hackers are remote or hybrid workers. When employees use their personal devices and home internet connections, they do not uphold the same advanced security measures used in the office. Cyber criminals are able to exploit these vulnerabilities, finding ways to infiltrate employee inboxes with malware and spyware. 

Tech or telecommunication professionals are no exception

IT professionals and employees in telecommunications sectors are also vulnerable to phishing attacks. Cyber criminals have mastered social engineering tactics to the degree that even IT professionals struggle to distinguish between phishing attacks and legitimate emails from IT vendors and service providers. These employees often have a higher sense of false security than those who do not work with computers or technology as often. 

Safeguarding against phishing

The effects of losing client data in a phishing attack can be disastrous. Once a data breach comes to light, the company’s reputation is damaged and they can quickly lose clients. It is vital that companies safeguard themselves against phishing attempts. Here are a few mitigating techniques:

  • Firstly, each employee should receive regular training on how to spot and respond to phishing attempts. All employees should receive general cyber security training on a regular basis, even managers and executives.
  • Secondly, training for best networks and systems security should take place across all levels of employment. Most importantly, crucial software updates should be kept up-to-date, strong passwords should be used and multi factor authentication should be enabled.
  • Lastly, high level executives should constantly verify the authenticity of any unusual requests. These include password resets and urgent requests for funds. When clicking on links or opening email attachments, executives should be highly cautious especially if they appear out of the blue or are suspicious in any way.        

User awareness training 

It’s important to identify which employee is at a higher risk of falling victim to such attacks. Organisations can safeguard themselves by providing appropriate cyber security training for flagged members of the organisation. 

This training includes educating employees about phishing, password security and current best practices in cyber security. This enables employees to make smarter decisions and reduce the risk of a security breach.

4C Group offers user awareness training through our security partner, KnowBe4, to ensure that our customers are protected from advanced social engineering techniques and tactics such as phishing. KnowBe4 is a leader in user awareness training and cyber security education. For more information about our user awareness training services, please contact us today.

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At 4C Group of Companies, we strive to effect operational changes and cost savings for customers through our iNSight product and associated services. This product’s main function is to re-purpose and deliver business-critical information to a variety of systems and stakeholders. 

We specialise in information assurance, business assurance, fintech solutions and a variety of cyber security services. For more insights into our products and services, check out our blog page or follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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