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Phishing is a form of cyber-attack that attempts to steal personal information or credentials from unsuspecting victims. It typically involves an attacker posing as a legitimate source, such as a bank, to trick the victim into entering their password or other details over the phone, web browser or email. Attackers prey on fear and a sense of urgency, often by telling users their account has been suspended or their funds are being held hostage.

Typical defences against phishing focus on educating users and increasing security awareness. However, this can only limit the damage from attacks that get through and is insufficient to prevent them altogether. Instead, organisations need to widen their defences to include more technical measures that improve resilience without disrupting user productivity.

A great resource highlighting 22 social engineering red flags is this one from KnowBe4. Ultimately, phishing relies on users making mistakes in an attempt to exploit those mistakes. The good news is that these mistakes are relatively easy to avoid.

Educating users on phishing threats is the first step. But if an attack does make it past the education stage, organisations need to take action by implementing DMARC. This simple technology makes it harder for attackers to disguise their email as your own and reduces the risk of employees unwittingly downloading malware or providing their credentials to bad actors.

Some phishing attacks are particularly sophisticated. These are known as spear phishing attacks and require significant research and knowledge of the organisation’s power structure. In a recent example, attackers impersonated help desk staff and claimed to be from Twitter’s internal virtual network provider. This allowed them to gain access to the accounts of high-profile Twitter users, including Barack Obama and Elon Musk.