How do Anti-phishing Tools Protect Your Business Emails?
When sending and receiving professional emails, it is perfectly normal to receive important documents as file attachments or to share links to Dropbox or Google folders. Unfortunately, so many people in the business world accept these email interactions as the norm that this makes them easy targets for phishing and malware. Because of this, anti-phishing tools are an absolute necessity for any organization hoping to protect its confidential information and other digital assets. By blocking malicious emails before they even enter your network, you can eliminate the risk of an unwary employee infecting your system.
But how do anti-phishing tools protect your business email accounts? Here’s a closer look at some of the methods used to keep your organization safe.
The reputation of an email sender’s IP is one of the easiest methods of determining whether a message is part of a phishing scam or not. Large email providers like Google and Yahoo consistently monitor feedback and complaints from their customers. When messages from a particular IP are reported as spam, this information is updated in their filters and subsequently shared with third parties known as reputation service providers. By monitoring how much spam content originates from a particular IP, they can easily blacklist harmful sources. Information from these databases (which is updated in real time) forms a crucial part of most anti-phishing tools. Flagged email addresses, domains and IPs will often be the first spam messages to be eliminated by this method.
Another common technique used in phishing scams is to include external links in the body copy of the email. These links may appear to be completely legitimate, referencing important (and even personal) information. Unfortunately, these links generally lead an unwary user to download a virus or direct them to an unsecured website that asks them to input personal data. When this happens, it is all too easy for confidential information to be stolen. Because of this, any active links that are included in a potential phishing attempt are scanned using URL blacklist and signature data. Emails containing dangerous or known suspicious URLs that direct users to phishing sites are quarantined.
A dangerous link isn’t the only tactic phishing scams use to steal your organization’s information -- in many cases, an infected attachment can be even more effective. Malicious individuals will often try to disguise these files as something that appears legitimate. For example, one common technique is to send an email that is allegedly from a potential client asking for a quote. Attached is what appears to be a ‘’.doc’’ file. In reality, the file could contain a hidden macro and have been renamed to hide the true file type, which will infect the user’s computer and compromise their data. Advanced attachment scans search for suspicious file types, hidden macros and other red flags that indicate a potentially dangerous file, ensuring that a mistaken download doesn’t lead to disaster.
Another common technique used in phishing scams is to forge the sender address, making it appear that a spam email was sent from a legitimate source. These “spoofing” emails can be very hard for the average user to detect, especially when a spammer has managed to gain access to a legitimate domain. Thankfully, anti-phishing tools are able to check SPF records on all incoming mail to identify if the email was sent from an authorized account or not. This allows them to identify when an email is coming from an unauthorized user, ensuring that these more convincing spam messages are quarantined before they can do any damage. It’s worth noting that organizations should also use SPF records to protect their own domain, preventing spammers from sending spoof emails that would damage their own online reputation.