Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Phishing Scams: How To Protect Your Small Business From Cyber Thieves

Phishing scams are at the top of cyber criminals’ moneymaking lists. It’s disturbing that the important data of organizations such as Sony are under threat from phishing scams. But unlike the widespread view, these scams affect small enterprise owners as much as they affect the big corporations.

Over 300,000 complaints were filed in 2010 to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the National White Collar Crime Center and the FBI.  These grievances were from small businesses and individuals wronged by online phishing scams and a variety of other Internet related crimes.

To give you a better comprehension as to why your small business is of great worth to a cyber criminal, let's take a look at what phishing is exactly. 

What is phishing?

What does "phishing" mean? Phishing is the attempt to access private data, such as financial information, usernames, and passwords. This is achieved by making false websites, graphics, email accounts, and phone numbers. The subject is persuaded, by one method or another, to reveal these types of data that may be used to steal their identity (social security numbers are a popular target). For small businesses, phishing scams may attempt to obtain access to customer credit card information. 


Examples of small business phishing scams


Thousands of small business owners have been sent emails by an organization using incredibly realistic IRS-looking letters stating that W-4 forms or other additional forms must be filled out and returned via fax.  This frightened many owners into believing they would be audited or penalized by the IRS for not handling the issue immediately. Unfortunately, they were fraudulent emails and these companies were tricked out of their private information.

The IRS states on it's website at IRS.gov, that it will not initiate any contact by email and that you should never click any links on an email sent to you asking you to send anything to the IRS.


Your company email can be a target

Another way these thieves gain information is by targeting a specific person within a business by sending him or her some kind of phony communication that looks completely legitimate but ends up launching a virus or malware. This virus then infects the entire network, giving thieves access to private company data. 


Phone phishing

Phone phishing refers to fraudulent phone calls where thieves posture as banks and request the victim to “verify” account numbers over the phone in order to steal confidential information.

How to protect your business against phishing


Visiting the Anti-Phishing Work Group will give you wise advice to shield your business against phishing scams and gives you useful information on how to avoid becoming a victim. Some of their advice follows, such as:

  • Make sure your employees are aware of what phishing scams are, and are cautious when reading and responding to suspicious emails.  Always err on the side of caution.  Instead of clicking a link, open another browser window and go to the official website.
  • Never give out company financial information such as bank routing numbers to an inquiry made via email.  Your bank does not need you to confirm your account information...they already have that. An email like that even if it has your bank's logo is a fake. Make it a habit to check your accounts regularly for suspicious charges and withdrawals.
  • Make sure every computer used has up-to-date virus and malware protection.  Schedule regular full system scans.  Never download "anti-virus" software from an unknown entity. It's better to stick with trusted brands.

It is nearly impossible for law enforcement to stop phishing, so the best method of defense is the education of your employees for identifying, dealing with, and staying up to date with phishing scam trends.

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