Over the last few years, we have seen a concerning rise in vishing. Vishing is the practice of eliciting information or attempting to influence action via the telephone. Statista reports that according to surveys of IT professionals conducted in 2020 and 2021, nearly 7 of 10 IT professionals reported having received a vishing call in 2021. This is a 54% increase since 2020. Not only is vishing becoming more prolific, but entire call centers are now being dedicate to it! One such call center was recently discovered in Ukraine, where 40 people were arrested in connection with malicious vishing. What does that mean for you and your company?
First, the statistics above show that you need to be aware that vishing is a realistic threat to your company. Secondly, you need to be proactive in protecting your employees against it. There are a couple of ways you can go about doing this; education and training/testing. You’ve already taken a great first step with education by reading this article. By taking a few minutes at a time you can learn not only what this potential threat to your company is, but also what techniques attackers can use against you. Let’s look at some of those techniques now.
Malicious vishers use various emotional triggers to motivate their target to action. An emotional trigger is anything that sparks an intense emotional reaction, regardless of your current mood. Since we are all susceptible to emotions, we can all be susceptible to vishing attacks given the right emotional and environmental triggers. Let’s look at some of the emotions that malicious vishers attempt to induce via emotional triggers and discuss ways they may leverage them.
Fear is an extremely powerful emotion when leveraged skillfully. Malicious vishers use this all the time. For example, one very common vishing scam has the caller posing as the IRS. The malicious caller makes the target fear that they are in trouble with the government. Now that the target feels fear, they are more easily influenced to take the action the caller wants them to take.
Leaving something unanswered can act as a prompt for action. For example, the visher may say something along the lines of “we have an internal website set up that includes all the information. Let me tell you how to access it.” The visher could then direct the target to the malicious website and collect a variety of information and/or exploit the target machine for remote access.
Sympathy or Assistance Themes
Sympathy or Assistance themes are huge in vishing because humans, in general, enjoy being helpful. Because of this, asking someone for help is a simple and effective way to elicit that assistance. Be on your guard if you sense an unknown caller trying to garner your sympathy or asking for help.
Shutting Down a Malicious Caller
These are just a few of the emotions malicious vishers may attempt to influence you to feel. Being aware of these tactics can help you keep your emotions in check if you feel yourself getting caught up in the moment on a call with an unknown caller. Take a moment to pause, and really think about what the caller is asking you to do or trying to get you to feel. Sharing this information with your employees is a great start to the educational process of understanding vishing. Here are some helpful steps to shutting down a malicious caller that you can share with your employees:
- Ask for name, company, title, and phone number. Be aware that advanced attackers may have legitimate numbers to call back, so verification of that number may also be a necessary step.
- Do not use caller ID alone to verify. Attackers use spoofing technology. If the call appears to be from an internal number, verify their employee ID first.
- Know what tech support and HR can ask for over the phone.
- Know how these departments are supposed to verify themselves.
Although sharing what you have learned thus far is a great first step, more is needed. By far the most successful way to prevent your company from succumbing to a vishing attack is with training and testing. Testing your employees with live, safe vishing calls is the best way to teach them how to shut down malicious callers. This hands-on training with real callers shows them how to handle these situations and prepares them for a time when your company may be the one targeted.
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