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How to Prepare Your Team to Fight Phishing

Phishing Graphic

While last year saw a significant decrease in its number of data breaches, the number of records that were leaked doubled… and then some. Part of this can likely be attributed to a spike in the use of ransomware, indicating a resurgence in interest of the mean-spirited malware. This means that your business may very well see more ransomware infection attempts coming its way—the only question is, are your team members prepared for them?

To keep your business and its data sufficiently secured, it will be important to teach your team to effectively identify and avoid phishing. One effective way to do it: try and phish them yourself, via a phishing attack simulation.

How Does a Phishing Attack Work?

Let’s go through the basic process of a phishing attack, just as a quick review:

An attacker, posing as someone else, sends their victim a message making some promise or threat that somehow—either through fear or temptation—coerces their contact into reacting to it, usually by following a link or opening an attachment. This methodology allows such schemes to bypass many restrictions set by security protocols and solutions, as the vulnerability it takes advantage of is the human user.

Therefore, when it comes to defending against the phishing attempts that are virtually guaranteed to target your business at some point, your team members need to be prepared. Let’s discuss what you need to teach them, and how to best prepare them to make sure they’ll overcome any they encounter.

Phishing Lessons to Pass On

Remind Them How Hackers Think

It’s important that your users are cognizant of how clever hackers and scammers can be when it comes to their ruses, and how they often take advantage of current events and information. Many phishing attacks as of late have been themed around COVID-19, pertaining to updates, warnings, and offers of personal protective equipment.

Hackers will try to capitalize on user panic and knee-jerk reactions whenever they possibly can to keep these users from thinking before they act. Therefore, it makes sense to have users look more critically at their incoming messages to evaluate whether a message seems “phishy” or not.

Provide Signs of Problematic Links

A favorite tool of these hackers is that of the spoofed link—basically, a link to one website disguised as a link to another. Others will just use a URL that is different but looks passable enough to slip by unnoticed.

These domains can be tricky. Let’s look at a few red flags to keep an eye out for (in this case, the attacker using Amazon as a disguise):

If the email is from Amazon, a link should lead back to or If there is anything strange between “Amazon” and the “.com” then something is suspicious. There should also be a forward slash (/) after the “.com.” If the URL was something like, then you are being spoofed. Everyone handles their domains a little differently, but use this as a rule of thumb:

  • – Safe
  • – Safe
  • – Safe
  • – Safe
  • – Suspicious! (notice the dot immediately after Amazon’s domain name)
  • – Suspicious!
  • – Suspicious! Don’t trust dots after the domain!

Some of these things can be challenging to spot, so you and your users need to be extra careful about checking (and double-checking) links.

Give Safe Links to Use

Even better, you could provide your team members with the links they are expected to use when being directed to certain places by their clients, rather than using the links potentially given in an email. These trusted links can be a real lifesaver, particularly when it becomes apparent that an email was an attack that a trusted link has helped your team to avoid.

Enforce Password Practices and Processes

The security of your team’s collective password policies is important for you to address, as these passwords are often the keys to the castle that cybercriminals are phishing for. Therefore, you need to ensure that your team is not only using best practices but are also handling these passwords appropriately, using tools like two-factor authentication wherever applicable and being generally cautious.

Evaluating Their Preparedness

Finally, once you’ve taught them the signs and precautions, you need to make sure that you check their proficiency in following through. To do this, a phishing test is in order.

A phishing test is simply a phishing attack you run against your own business to help identify where your weaknesses are. By showing you which team members are susceptible to an attack, you can correct the vulnerability through training and other assistance.

What Makes a Successful Phishing Test?

To effectively run a phishing test, you should not inform your team that one is incoming—to do so would defeat the purpose of the evaluation. If you do, make sure you keep it vague and never specify when they should expect it—that way, you can avoid skewing your results.

However, you also need to keep basic ethics in mind. Being shady—like some companies have been concerning their phishing “evaluations” in the past (we’re looking at you, GoDaddy)—will not help your security. You want to communicate trust with your team, and hope it is reciprocated.

As for your other security needs, trust Macatawa Technologies. Give us a call at (616) 394-4940 to learn more.


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