Imagine arriving at work one day only to find that your organization’s critical data is now in the hands of cyber attackers. That’s highly likely, considering that more than 255 million phishing attacks were detected over six months in 2022.
The previous year saw email phishing attacks increase by 667% despite growing awareness and prevention efforts. When major companies such as OpenSea and MailChimp fall victim, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars and the exposure of thousands of users’ private data, one must wonder: am I next?
Understanding phishing and the tools that can help prevent it is critical, as organizations of all sizes are equally at risk. In this article, we explore what anti-phishing tools are and how they help fight against phishing scams.
What Are Anti-Phishing Tools and How Do They Work?
Anti-phishing tools are designed to protect individuals and organizations from phishing attacks by automatically identifying and blocking suspicious activity, links, attachments, and messages. Typically, the following solutions are categorized as anti-phishing tools:
- Email filters analyze multiple aspects of an email, such as sender, subject line, content, attachments, and embedded links, to identify threats, mark suspicious emails as spam, and delete or block them.
- Anti-virus software can help to identify and block malicious attachments or links in emails that lead to phishing websites. It uses signature-based detection to match known threats and heuristics to identify new, unknown threats. It can also scan incoming emails for malware or other malicious code that may be used in phishing attacks.
- Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds a layer of security to the login process by requiring users to provide two forms of identification to access their account (say, a password and biometrics). This makes it harder for an attacker to gain access to an account even if they’ve obtained the user’s password, helping to prevent impersonation, a common technique used in phishing attacks.
- SMS-based authentication is a type of 2FA that uses text messages sent to a user’s phone to add a layer of security to the login process. It requires users to enter a unique code sent to their mobile device and a password to access their account.
- Browser extensions use databases of known phishing sites and heuristics to analyze websites in real time and determine if they’re safe to visit. It warns users when they navigate a potentially malicious site so they can exit it before entering sensitive information, making a fraudulent transaction, clicking on a malicious link, or downloading a suspicious attachment.
- Firewalls control network traffic to prevent unauthorized access to a network. They can be configured to block incoming and outgoing traffic based on criteria such as source IP address, destination IP address, and port number. By blocking traffic from known phishing domains or IP addresses, firewalls can help prevent them from reaching end users.
- Security awareness training educates employees on how to identify and avoid phishing attempts. Typically, it focuses on how phishing scams work, how to recognize phishing emails and avoid suspicious links or attachments, and how to protect sensitive information through safe online habits such as using strong passwords and 2FA.
Why Is Phishing Successful, and How Can the Right Tools Stop Attackers in Their Tracks?
Although anti-phishing tools can help, they are not foolproof. For example, SMS-based authentication is vulnerable to certain attacks, such as SIM swapping, where an attacker can obtain control of a victim’s phone number and intercept their SMS messages.
Firewalls, email filters, and anti-virus software alone are also insufficient to fully protect against phishing. Although they help block malicious technology, these attacks often use social engineering tactics to trick victims into providing sensitive information.
For example, to convince victims to hand over sensitive information, spear phishing is customized to target specific individuals or types of employees, while whaling phishing is highly personalized to target high-level executives. Email filters may deter some of these messages but won’t work in the case of an account takeover because the sender will technically be legitimate.
Meanwhile, anti-virus software can help protect against phishing attacks that deliver malware through email attachments or web downloads. Still, it can’t effectively protect users against attacks that don’t involve malware. Similarly, firewalls cannot defend against social engineering attacks by focusing only on the network layer and can be bypassed if attackers find a weakness in the firewall’s configuration or exploit a vulnerability in a network.
Additionally, these software, alongside browser extensions, focus on detecting and removing known malware and phishing attempts. But phishing attacks are constantly evolving and adapting, making it difficult for anti-phishing software to keep up with the latest threats. Attacks that haven’t been added to the software’s database of known threats will pass by undetected.
Ideally, anti-phishing software can serve as an awareness tool for training users to recognize phishing scams autonomously. In a company setting, this helps them to proactively alert the rest of the team or report the attempted attack to the security department for further investigation. But human error still happens even among well-informed employees.
Additionally, corporate security awareness initiatives don’t protect end users outside the company’s perimeter. Without the same level of security awareness or technical knowledge as employees, customers become easier targets for phishing scams, which cause much damage to the reputation of brands being impersonated. Besides, phishing attacks can also be launched on customers to gain access to corporate systems–for example, through credential theft, malware, supply-chain attacks, and account takeover.
As a result, phishing attacks continue to succeed, and their consequences can be severe. One common immediate impact is financial since attackers often steal sensitive information such as credit card numbers or login credentials to victims’ online banking apps or trick victims into conducting fraudulent transactions, costing Americans over $40 billion in 2022.
Additional consequences include compromising sensitive business information, leading to loss of customer trust and further long-term losses due to reputational damage.
Key Features to Look for in an Anti-Phishing Tool
With this in mind, specialized anti-phishing software should ideally have a combination of all the following capabilities:
- Real-time detection and blocking of phishing attempts by continuously analyzing incoming emails and web traffic
- ML-based analysis to identify phishing attempt patterns
- Browser extension or plugin that warns users when visiting a potentially malicious domain
- Deny lists and safe lists: The software should maintain and continually update a database of known phishing sites and email addresses
- Education and training for users beyond the corporate perimeter so they can avoid and report phishing attempts
- Integration with other security systems to provide a comprehensive security solution
- Detailed reports and analytics on phishing attempts, including the attack’s origin, the type of attack, and the target
Top 10 Anti-Phishing Tools for 2023
1. Barracuda Impersonation Protection (formerly Barracuda Sentinel)
Main Features: Barracuda Impersonation Protection uses AI and ML to detect and block email-based attacks targeting businesses, including corporate email compromise and employee account takeover.
Best for: Enterprise users.
Review:“Barracuda Email security provides us with real-time AI-based email protection, which is very helpful for keeping our data safe and secure. Impersonation Protection is the beauty of Barracuda Sentinel, providing a separate dashboard for real-Time Phishing Protection, Account Takeover Protection, and Domain Fraud Protection. I like it very much for employee protection.” – G2.
Main features: Memcyco protects end users outside the traditional corporate security perimeter, going beyond what most phishing protections offer by protecting all end users, including customers, from fraud.
It uses ML and AI to detect and block phishing attempts by warning victims of potential fraud in real-time. Additionally, a unique, non-forgeable watermark enables users to visually discern between authentic and fake digital sites in a non-intrusive way, leading to more confident online engagement.
The solution includes incident response and forensic analysis capabilities for security and fraud teams.
Best for: Organizations of all sizes looking for a comprehensive phishing protection solution that is effective inside and outside their corporate environment.
Review: “Memcyco’s new Proof of Source Authenticity (PoSA) solution is exactly what we were looking for. It works in real time and provides our users with a visual security affirmation via an unforgeable watermark on our website and emails. The watermark includes a user-specific code and provides students and faculty members with a true sense of security. Installation was extremely easy. After signing up, our tech support team needed only to add a single line of code to our web files, and the watermark simply appeared in front of us. We informed our users to start expecting this watermark as a sign they can trust the site. The game changer is that our users are not required to install anything or register anywhere.” – Holon Institute of Technology
Price: Contact the company’s sales team for pricing information.
3. Avanan, by CheckPoint
Main features: Avanan by CheckPoint uses AI and ML to enable site-wide protection for cloud solutions. Its one-click API prevents corporate email compromise by blocking phishing, malware, data leakage, and employee account takeover attempts across the organization.
Best for: Companies looking for a one-size-fits-all solution for their cloud platform and corporate email protection.
Review: “Avanan Cloud Email Security platform differs from other API vendors through its pre-emptive malicious email blocking features. It’s a complete email security suite that offers full-fledged data loss protection for our business emails & customer data. Its DLP scanning seamlessly goes through all emails, attachments & files in our organization’s account.” – G2.
4. Cofense Managed Phishing Defense & Response
Main features: Cofense focuses on blocking phishing threats using AI and ML for automated detection and response. It includes access to a professional phishing threat analysis team that constantly analyzes new threats and provides organizations with the data they collect.
Best for: Larger organizations with in-house security teams and analysts looking for a solution that will work hand in hand with their current investments to protect employees.
Review: “Cofense is used as a phishing reporting tool for the whole organization. The number of users we have makes for many reported emails. This was a time-consuming process for our analysts to keep up with the reported emails so we looked into Cofense PDC. With their help, it has been more manageable to stay ahead of all the reported emails and enables us to focus on the actual threats.”– TrustRadius.
Main features: IRONSCALES uses a combination of AI and human ingenuity to detect various threats in real-time, such as corporate credential theft on fake login pages where victims of phishing emails might reveal personal information leading to account takeover.
Best for: Organizations with limited IT resources that require an automated solution to detect threats against employees in real-time.
Review: “Since implementing IRONSCALES, phishing emails that reach our Inboxes have decreased significantly. When a questionable email reaches a user’s mailbox, the user can easily report the message to IRONSCALES through a button in Outlook. It makes it easy for the user and IT support to manage threats. I love that there is an App on my mobile phone. When a user reports an email, I receive an alert and then can handle the resolution via my phone app.”– G2.
Price: Pricing starts at $6 a month.
Main features: KnowBe4 emphasizes employee awareness over being a traditional security platform, providing employee awareness programs and simulated phishing attacks to test employee knowledge. It also includes incident response and forensic analysis capabilities. Custom ML modules support the different stages of a phishing attack. For example, PhishER processes user-reported phishing and other suspicious emails by grouping and categorizing them based on rules, tags, and actions. Meanwhile, PhishRIP quarantines suspicious messages still sitting in mailboxes across the entire organization. PhishFlip turns phishing emails into training opportunities by flipping them into simulated phishing campaigns.
Best for: Organizations looking to implement employee phishing awareness programs.
Review: “KnowBe4 has a wide variety of training for users on how to watch for phishing and scams that hit our inboxes so often. KnowBe4 enables us to monitor emails coming through and quarantine them to better protect the organization from ransomware and viruses and help reinforce worker safety.”– G2.
Main features: Mimecast is a cloud-based email solution using AI and ML to defend corporate emails from various threats, including spam, phishing, malware, URL, and malicious attachments.
Organizations receiving large amounts of email communication that require a general filter for phishing, spam, and other attacks against employees.
Review: “[Mimecast] contributed to cleaning up our email server and preventing potentially dangerous/harmful emails from entering our network. I like that I can retrieve any of my past emails, even if they have been deleted. I can keep my inbox organized with minimal emails. But I think the experience is clunky; I am unsure if this is because of the software itself or because of its relationship with Outlook and Citrix.” – GetApp.
Main features: CybeReady offers an autonomous security awareness program platform built for enterprises. It includes new courses regularly, phishing simulations, and a compliance tool.
Best for: Enterprises in the banking, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical industries looking to establish security training as a regular practice
Review: “I have had an amazing experience with CybeReady. It is very easy to create customizable and engaging online courses. They also provide training in different locations and languages according to our comfort. The content taught during the learning program is relevant to the actuality of daily incidents. The phishing simulation is also another feature that I greatly appreciated; the campaigns are always straightforward. Also, the phishing content is taught according to the needs of the training groups.”– G2.
Main features: Valimail provides DMARC-as-a-service and hosted DMARC (domain-based message authentication reporting and conformance). The solutions authenticate sender identity, stopping impersonation attacks and protecting brands. The company also holds leadership positions in key email authentication standards bodies to promote trust and safety in the email ecosystem.
Best for: Smaller companies who want to understand their overall email security posture.
Review: “As a small company, we’re probably not the most likely target for spam and spoofed messages, but we do care a lot about our email reputation and deliverability for our marketing needs. The Valimail dashboard lets me see what services and IP addresses are sending mail on our behalf and check reported bounces according to our policies. It has been a very useful tool for us as a small business and I’m sure it would be effective for others as well.”- G2.
Main features: Trustify offers a selection of corporate email security solutions that organizations can customize to fit their security and compliance needs. It provides security for inbound and outbound emails from a single vendor, AI-based behavior detection, account compromise detection, and archiving features with customizable access controls and permissions.
Best for: Organizations that share sensitive information via email to support daily operations.
Review: “When it comes to keeping our emails secure while also sending and receiving emails securely, we trust Trustifi Email Security, and it has been very useful so far. I like the ease of deployment, understaffing, and using the tool. It is also worth mentioning that Trustifi Email Security is not as pricey as other tools.” – G2.
Never Underestimate the Power of Education
While automated tools have their place and can be a great help in filtering out some of the malicious content, education is critical. Most solutions in the market focus on protecting employees within an organization’s perimeter. But virtually anyone with an email account is at risk of becoming the next phishing victim.
That’s why Memcyco empowers customers, employees, and all end users with the knowledge they need to discern between authentic and fake online communication, giving them the right tools to make better decisions. Learn more about how Memcyco’s Proof of Source Authenticity (PoSA) is changing the security paradigm to support digital trust.
Eyal is head of demand generation at Memcyco