what is a phishing email

What Is a Phishing Email: Best Practices

Phishing attacks are some of the oldest scams on the internet but are still a very popular form of cyberattack. Research shows that email phishing attacks have seen a nearly 80% increase in the last year alone, and a single phishing attack can cost a business tens of thousands in lost productivity and revenue.

With managed services by Herrod Technology, your company can lower your risk of phishing attacks and other cyber scams. But what is a phishing email? We will discuss phishing emails, how they work, and how you can protect your business from these kinds of attacks. 

What Is a Phishing Attack?

Before talking about how phishing emails work and how to protect your business, we need to answer the main question: What is a phishing email?

A phishing attack involves tricking a victim into clicking on links or attachments that give hackers access to their computer and files. Hackers use phishing attacks to steal business and personal information, such as credit card numbers, internet search histories, social security numbers, account passwords, and more. Phishing attacks are very common because they are easy to perform and hackers don’t need much technical knowledge to pull them off. 

How Do Phishing Attacks Work?

Phishing attacks can occur through emails, phone calls, and fake text messages. The hacker first sends the victim a message telling them to click on a link or download an attachment. Once the victim clicks the link, malware is downloaded onto their computer and the hacker gains complete access. 

Hackers will disguise communications to trick people into clicking on malicious links. For instance, a hacker might create a fake email pretending to be your bank and ask you to click on a link that infects your computer. They may claim you have a promotional offer to redeem or create a fake message that you have to take action to prevent account deletion. Hackers are very creative in how they trick people to download malware. 

After the hacker gets into your network, they can access your personal information, such as bank info, passwords, social security number, insurance information, and more. For businesses, hackers can access sensitive client information, financial reports, and legal documentation.

Types of Phishing Attacks

Below is a quick list and description of the major phishing attack modalities. 

Deceptive Phishing

Deceptive phishing is probably the most common type of attack and involves tricking the victim into clicking on a fake link to download malware. Hackers impersonate a legitimate source through fake texts or emails to gain the victim’s trust. 


Whaling is a phishing strategy that occurs when a hacker steals a supervisor’s or CEO’s identity and orders subordinates to make payments. Whaling is often difficult to detect in larger companies because executives typically don’t interact much with department employees. 

Spear Phishing

A spear-phishing attack is a variant of deceptive phishing in which the hacker tailors phishing scams for a specific person. Fake messages on a spear phishing attack may include personal information, such as a name or address, to trick people into thinking they are real messages. Spear phishing has become easier to pull off as many people include personal information on their social media pages. 


Pharming is a more technical form of phishing in which a hacker redirects an individual’s internet connection to a false website. Hackers can access your DNS server and redirect you to a fake site, even if you type in the correct URL. 

How to Recognize and Prevent Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks drastically affect business activity and cost thousands in lost revenue every day. Below are some tips and strategies to preempt and avoid phishing attacks. 

Recognize the Lures

Phishers use several “lures” to trick their victims. Understanding these lure tactics can help you identify malicious phishing messages. Common lures hackers use include:

  • Emails claiming you won some kind of sweepstakes or prize
  • Threats to deactivate an account unless you take action
  • Messages or phone calls that threaten you with arrest
  • Fraudulent tech support emails that talk about resetting or changing your password
  • Phony job offers that steal applicant information
  • “Too good to be true” offers about making money or investments
  • Text messages from unknown numbers requesting personal information

Learning the common tricks and strategies scammers use can keep employees and businesses safe from malicious activity. 

Avoid Unsolicited Links

Never click on links you do not recognize or links that do not contain “https” before the rest of the URL. Also, double-check for differences between the URL hyperlink text and the actual embedded URL. The URL on the page might say one thing but include a hyperlink to a different URL. If you receive an unsolicited email from a company, make sure that the sender’s URL matches the actual URL the business uses. 

Avoid Suspicious Emails

Email is another common vector for phishing attacks. Don’t open links in spammy-looking emails and double-check the domain to make sure the message actually came from the real organization. For example, many phishers will send emails from alternative domains, such as .net or .org, to trick people into thinking they are legitimate. For example, a legitimate email from PayPal will come from PayPal.com, not PayPal.net or PayPal.org. 

Use Multifactor Authentication

Multifactor authentication can greatly reduce phishing attack scams because it requires additional credentials to access accounts. Even if a hacker steals your password, they may not be able to get past two-factor authentication. 

Regularly Change Passwords

Businesses should change passwords every three months to improve security. If someone steals a password, changing passwords prevents them from accessing your systems. 

IT & Cybersecurity Services in Arlington

Herrod Tech is the region’s go-to provider for managed IT and cybersecurity services. Businesses need every advantage in today’s competitive marketplace. Our cutting-edge IT solutions can streamline operations and remove redundancies in your workflow. We strive to give our clients peace of mind knowing they are protected from malicious attackers. 

Now that you know, “What is a phishing email?” browse our blog to learn more ways to secure your email server. Fill out our contact form today to schedule a consultation call!

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