Phishing is a type of cyber attack where a hacker tries to steal your money, data, or identity by tricking you into revealing personal information. Usually, they will impersonate someone you know or may be related to. Brand impersonation has also become increasingly popular and quite difficult to deal with.
Big names and well-known brands are perceived as trustworthy, and many people won’t go the extra mile to verify the received link or message. Sadly, even a lot of business owners and managers can’t afford enough cybersecurity training to be prepared for these attacks. As such, the phishing hacking niche is flourishing.
The best defense against cyber attacks is prevention. And to be able to protect yourself and your company from phishing, you need to know what you deal with, how to recognize brand impersonation, and what you can do to stay safe. Below, we go through these aspects one by one – it’s better to be safe than sorry, even if you work with high-tech and secure HPC solutions.
What Is Brand Impersonation?
In a nutshell, brand impersonation is a type of phishing where hackers pose as a legitimate, well-known company or entity to dupe individuals into sharing personal information or perform certain actions, such as clicking on a malicious link. The goal is to either infect the targets’ devices with malware or steal sensitive data.
The most popular brands used in such attacks are, not surprisingly, ones with the widest recognition. These include social media platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), online retailers (Amazon, eBay), financial institutions (Paypal, banks), and so on.
The most common type of brand impersonation is email phishing. However, phishers may also contact you through social media, text messages, or even over the phone.
How to Spot Brand Impersonation
Spotting brand impersonation can be quite difficult, as hackers are experienced at imitating companies’ brands and public relations teams. They know how to recreate a company’s logo, color scheme, and branding elements to make their phishing emails and websites look indistinguishable from the real thing. So, if you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to get tricked.
That being said, here are some suggestions on what to look for when trying to spot brand impersonation:
- Inconsistencies in the URL: When looking at a URL, pay attention to small details, such as spelling mistakes, different domain extensions (.com vs .net), and subdomains that don’t match the company’s name (e.g., support instead of customer-support).
- Generic greetings: Many phishing emails start with generic salutations like “Dear valued customer” instead of addressing you by name. This is because the sender doesn’t have your contact information and is just hoping that you will take the bait.
- Urgent calls to action: Phishers often try to create a sense of urgency to prompt you into taking action without thinking too much about it. For example, they may say that your account will be suspended unless you provide your login credentials within 24 hours.
- Poorly written emails: In many cases, phishing emails are full of grammar and spelling mistakes. This is because hackers are often not native English speakers. So, if you receive an email from a well-known company that is full of errors, this should be a red flag.
- Mismatched links: One way to check whether an email is legitimate is to hover over any links included in the message. If the URL that appears is different from the company’s website, it’s likely that you’re dealing with a phishing email.
- Attachments from unknown senders: Be wary of email attachments, even if they come from a company you know and trust. If possible, always scan any attachments for viruses before opening them.
How to Stay Safe from Brand Impersonation
Now that you know what brand impersonation is and how to spot it, it’s time to talk about how you can protect yourself from such attacks.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Never click on links or open attachments from unknown or suspicious sources.
- If you’re not expecting an email from a particular company, contact them through their official website or customer support number to confirm that the message is legitimate. Do not use the contact information included in the email.
- Keep your operating system as well as antivirus software up to date and run regular scans on your devices.
- Be careful what information you share online and on social media. The more information hackers have about you, the easier it is for them to impersonate you.
- Educate yourself and your employees about cyber security risks and how to spot phishing emails.
- Stay informed about the latest cyber threats and how to protect yourself.
- Create strong and unique passwords, and don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
- Enable two-factor authentication whenever possible.
- Install a good-quality spam filter.
What to Do if You’ve Been a Victim of Brand Impersonation?
If you think that you or your business may have been a victim of brand impersonation, it’s important to act quickly. Start by changing any passwords that may have been compromised and run a malware scan on your devices. Then, contact the company whose brand was impersonated and let them know about the attack. Finally, report the incident to the authorities, such as the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
It is also important to keep in mind that brand impersonation is not always about trying to scam you or steal your data. Sometimes, attackers may simply be interested in compromising your system or network for criminal purposes. As such, it’s important to have a robust cybersecurity solution in place that can detect and prevent such attacks.
The Bottom Line
Phishing is a serious cyber security threat, and brand impersonation is one of the most popular types of phishing attacks. Spotting brand impersonation can be quite difficult, as hackers are experienced at imitating companies’ brands and public relations teams. However, there are some tell-tale signs, such as mismatched URLs, generic greetings, urgent calls to action, and poor grammar.
To stay safe from brand impersonation, never click on links or open attachments from unknown or suspicious sources, keep your antivirus software up to date, and be careful what information you share online. If you think you may have been a victim of brand impersonation, act quickly and contact the authorities.