A Look at Phishing Keywords
Researchers at Expel offer a useful list of the top keywords used in phishing emails. First on the list is the word “invoice,” which is a general term that will be relevant to most organizations.
“Generic business terminology doesn’t immediately stand out as suspicious and maximizes relevance to the most potential recipients by blending in with legitimate emails, which presents challenges for security technology,” the researchers write. “Most people are also inclined to respond promptly to communications from co-workers, vendors or clients if they believe action is required, like returning an invoice.”
The word “new” is another potential red flag, since it will grab a user’s attention.
“‘New’ is commonly used in legitimate communications and notifications, and aims to raise the recipient’s interest,” Expel says. “People are drawn to new things in their inbox, wanting to make sure they don’t miss something important.”
Another common word used in phishing emails is “required,” which preys on a user’s sense of urgency.
“Keywords that promote action or a sense of urgency are favorites among attackers because they prompt people to click without taking as much time to think,” the researchers write. “‘Required’ also targets employees’ sense of responsibility to urge them to quickly take action.”
Expel notes that multifactor authentication (MFA) is an extremely important layer of defense against phishing attacks. While MFA isn’t foolproof, it makes it much more difficult for an attacker to breach an account even if they have the account’s credentials. The researchers add that employee education is another important layer of defense.
“Another important thing orgs can do to prevent successful phishing campaigns is to develop comprehensive phishing education programs,” Expel says. “Orgs should stay up-to-date on the latest phishing trends to update their policies and educate employees when new tactics are at play. Beyond training sessions, regularly test employees with mock phishing emails (and provide feedback on what in the email was suspicious) so they continue to learn, hone their detection skills, and know how to report suspicious emails in their inbox.”
New-school security awareness training can teach your employees to follow security best practices and enable them to recognize red flags associated with social engineering attacks.