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How does a phishing email work?

Phishing is a type of social engineering attack that is designed to steal user data like login information or any credit card information on the user’s computer. Phishing is subtle because the attacker can gain your information from a simple action like opening a phishing email, replying or clicking on a link on the phishing email. When a user does any of these actions, a malicious software can be installed on the computer or the system can be frozen as part of a ransomware attack.

There are different types of phishing emails. Normal phishing relies on the quantity of phishing emails sent. Hackers send a mass, general phishing emails to thousands of recipients in hope that one person will open it and gain them access to that business. This is the most basic form of phishing and people who’ve seen a phishing email before can recognize it. In contrast, spear phishing is a sophisticated phishing technique. Instead of mass sending random phishing emails, hackers take significant time to learn about a business, its corporate structure and send one or few very personalized emails to a specific person in a business. This is extremely dangerous because of its sophistication; very few people can recognize this as a phishing email and it can lead to a hacker gaining access to a senior member of a company’s data.

How can phishing hurt your business?

Phishing emails accounted for over 90% of all data breaches in 2018. Phishing can have several damaging effects on your business. First, when an employee at your business opens a phishing email, it makes your whole business susceptible of receiving the same phishing email. A common phishing email may ask for an employee to reset their password because it’s expiring. When the employee opens this email, clicks on the link and puts in their login credentials, the hacker can now access all the other contacts in their email and any company data. At this point, the hacker can send the same email reset email to all the employees in your business and gain full access to your business. This can lead to extreme financial loss, damage to reputation, loss of clients and more. For the individual employee that falls to phishing, it can result in unauthorized purchases, identity theft and loss of funds. For the business, company data and client data can be used as ransom to extort the business for money.


There are several ways your business can help prevent phishing scams. Simple, actionable steps today can prevent fighting a phishing attack in the future.

▶︎ Educate your employees: This is the first step that should be done. If you’re employees are familiar with phishing, they will be more careful when they receive email that is from outside your business

▶︎ Do annual or semi-annual training: Putting your employees through a few hours of phishing training will help them see examples of phishing and know what steps to do once they recognize phishing.
▶︎ Two-factor authentication: Linking your business credentials to your phone/email in order to access is one of the safest ways to combat someone getting a hold of your login information. This will make it far less likely for someone to access your account.

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Last Updated: On August 21, 2019