Your brand’s reputation is vital to your company’s success. What do you do when someone impersonates your brand to exploit or attack others? How do you prevent damage to your brand from cybercriminals impersonating you?

Phishing Attacks Put Brand Reputations at Risk

Phishing plays on people’s trust and familiarity with brands they love. Cybercriminals try to make you turn over sensitive information that can be used to compromise finances, identity, or employer. In many cases, phishing is accomplished by sending a phishing email that makes the recipient feel compelled to act by clicking a link or starting a download, entering a password, or personal identifying information (PII).

Once the user’s account is compromised, phishers can use the information to download malware, identity theft and to take control of the account to compromise further accounts belonging to family, friends, or coworkers of the originally targeted victim. Just one successful phishing attempt can lead to a larger circle of victims or prospects, and then the cycle continues.

The real damage, however, happens to the specific brand a scammer chooses to exploit through their chosen targets. It’s no surprise that the brands most often impersonated by hackers to trick unsuspecting email recipients, or social media users are big names built on a foundation of trust.

New Brands are Targets for Phishing Scams

Some of the top impersonated brands or “spoofed” include:

  • Ray-Ban
  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • Facebook
  • Whatsapp
  • Apple
  • DropBox
  • Chase Bank
  • Bank of America
  • PayPal
  • Stripe
  • LinkedIn
  • Amazon
  • Booking
  • Uber
  • Steam

More and more brands are being used for phishing scams every year. If a brand has a big email list, handles financial, transactional, or personal data, and could be leveraged for gain, it is at risk of brand impersonation.

Identify Phishing Attacks

If your brand is chosen for a phishing attack, the first thing a cybercriminal will do is try to copy your brand colors, logo, tagline, and even your website as closely as possible. They may buy domain names as near to yours as possible, taking advantage of common misspellings, or choosing your brand name plus the words “support” or “help” or “password recovery.”

Once they have successfully mimicked your brand look, feel, and tone, the next phase begins. The phishing attack is typically carried out by sending an email or posting a “giveaway” on social media. Phishing targets are encouraged to click a link that leads them to a website page that looks like it belongs to your brand with a similar domain name.

Once the mark is on the webpage, an attempt to get them to turn over PII is made. This information could be their password for their account with your company, or their first and last name plus date of birth, or even a credit card number. If the phishing attack succeeds, the scammer now has information they can leverage to hack and tamper with the victim’s account with your company, and potentially commit fraud, make purchases, steal their identity on top of a data breach.

The Cost of Phishing for Brands is Monetary and Emotional

Attackers exploit the human tendency for emotional weakness, whether it be fear, excitement, greed, or curiosity. When the phishing attack is complete, many victims then feel negatively against the brand that was impersonated to take advantage of them, instead of the real criminals: the hackers.

Anger and distrust can continue to grow and build, and the phished target may even become an anti-ambassador for your brand. One high profile complaint about a compromised identity can cause untold PR damage for your brand, even though you weren’t involved at all. All they will remember when they see your brand is how their trust in you was betrayed.

Monitoring Your Brand for Phishing Prevention

You can work quickly to identify phishing attempts and stop fraud in its tracks by carefully monitoring your brand and staying connected to your customer base online.

Expand your Domain Name

Buy as many permutations of your brand and domain name as possible and watch for sites that spring up with similar domain names. Be vigilant about your domain renewals, and don’t let ownership of your domain lapse. Someone could try to take your domain name, and while you might be able to fight and win your name back, the damage done in the meantime could be significant.

Keep Your Social Accounts Active

If your brand isn’t active on social media, someone will step in to fill the void. Don’t give malicious persons an opening. Secure your brand name accounts on each social media platform and track mentions of your brand and posts containing your brand name or logo so you can shut down phishing attempts fast. If you become aware of an email phishing attack, or brand abuse, use your social media to alert your audience and warn them to be cautious.

Keep Good Company

Carefully evaluate any potential affiliates, partners, or vendors to ensure you don’t inadvertently open the door to impersonation or misrepresentation.  Third-party risk assessments should be part of your cybersecurity strategy.

Invest in Security

Many phishing attempts come from within your own company. Your employees are at risk of being taken advantage of, so install security software on endpoints and if using BYOD protocols, make sure all computers and devices are using a VPN to connect to your network and are routinely scanned for threats. All employees should be trained for brand protection and how to recognize red flags and identify phishing attempts.

Monitor your Brand

A brand monitoring tool can help you root out and keep track of phishing sites by generating misspelled versions of your company’s domain, then searching for each one on the list to see if a website has sprung up.

A brand and fraud audit can quickly scan for any impersonation, fake websites, mention of your brand, and a potential scam or phishing attack and provide you with a full report. Once you know where your vulnerabilities are, you can take steps to rectify them and educate your consumers to improve trust relations.

Use a URL Scanner to Detect Phishing or Malicious Websites

CheckPhish scans thousands of brands and top-level domains in real-time to help protect your brand. With artificial intelligence and machine learning, we can detect different types of phishing scams. When you need to know if a website is legitimate or a malicious phishing site, take advantage of the free URL scanner.

Monitoring and controlling your brand and its reputation is the single most influential thing you can do to help prevent phishers from using the brand reputation you’ve built. By carefully tracking online activity, you can protect your brand and your customers.