What makes an anti-phishing solution intelligent?

Egress | 24th Nov 2021

Phishing attacks have been around for decades, yet they're still one of the top techniques hackers use to infiltrate the networks of even the largest enterprises.

Hackers evolve their phishing techniques at a breakneck pace, and it has become impossible for any rule-based defense tactics to keep up. The best solutions to phishing scams must evolve alongside the latest attack methods by analyzing real-time data and patterns using AI-driven technology to detect and stop sophisticated zero-day attacks in their tracks.

As hackers continue developing their techniques, traditional anti-phishing solutions are no longer enough to protect businesses from sophisticated phishing campaigns. Here's what you should know about intelligent anti-phishing solutions.

The shortcomings of traditional anti-phishing solutions

A successful phishing attack targets zero-day vulnerabilities to evade traditional anti-phishing solutions. Meanwhile, hackers employ psychological tricks to exploit weaknesses in the human security layer through social engineering techniques. Remember, just one employee can click on a malicious link and infect your entire system.

Organizations must adopt a zero-trust approach to cybersecurity and use the latest technologies to detect and mitigate these risks while educating employees on identifying these increasingly sophisticated attacks. 

Traditional solutions use secure email gateways (SEGs) to thwart phishing attempts. However, some products on the market are akin to glorified blocklists and are no longer effective against sophisticated attacks. 

How SEGs fall short:

  • The signature-based detection solution only blocks known malicious content but can't stop zero-day threats, which make up most successful breaches.
  • They can't defend against business email compromise (BEC) attacks where cybercriminals create highly realistic emails to trick employees into clicking malicious links.
  • Since SEGs only screen emails from outside the organization but not from internal ones, criminals can use hacked company accounts to send phishing emails without detection.
  • Hackers can learn about an SEG from its mail exchanger (MX) record and develop techniques to evade detection by the software.

What about social graphs?

Businesses can use social graphs to help catch spoofed spear-phishing emails closely mirroring real email addresses and ensure that employees only receive emails from trusted sources. They build up trust scores based on how often people communication with each other. Here's an example of the differences between a real email address and a spoofed one:

  • Real: john.smith@Company.com
  • Spoof: john.smith@C0mpany.com

However, just like anti-phishing technology that relies on blocklists and malware detection, social graphs alone aren't effective against account takeover (ATO) attacks. This method can only learn from what the providers have already detected. If an attack is new (i.e., zero-day) or highly sophisticated, the software won't have enough data to filter out the malicious content.

Use intelligent solutions to catch more sophisticated threats

An intelligent anti-phishing solution, like Egress Defend, addresses the many facets of phishing attacks. For example, it can help you stop targeted email attacks by combining zero-trust models, linguistic and contextual analysis, and social graph technologies to detect sophisticated threats like supply chain compromise, impersonations, and zero-day attacks.

Since the solution doesn't rely on complex rules companies must update constantly, you can free up administrative resources while minimizing frustrating false positives. Additionally, the software can parse through a significant amount of data in real-time to help security teams take immediate action.

Furthermore, an intelligent anti-phishing solution can augment your human layer security by turning employees from a security risk into a security asset. It detects user behaviors and provides real-time guidance to help them make intelligent security decisions.

How intelligent anti-phishing solutions play a role

To stay ahead of cybercriminals, organizations must go beyond chasing and blocking known threats. Proactive identification of new patterns and technologies in real-time is a requirement.

Cybercriminals send emails that can fool even the most tech-savvy employees into clicking malicious links or downloading malware. The good news is that technology can be used to combat these attacks by detecting patterns and analyzing contextual data, helping organizations keep up with fast-evolving phishing and spear-phishing techniques. 

Use these technologies to: 

  • Detect and mitigate even the most sophisticated phishing scams, including BEC, brand forgery, CEO fraud, spear-phishing, and other zero-day attacks.
  • Identify BEC and social engineering attacks through context analysis of inbound email traffic to protect employees against ATO attacks.
  • Cultivate cybersecurity awareness among employees and train them to recognize threats by streamlining communication and providing insight summaries.
  • Defend against the increasing number of attacks against the 365 platform by using a solution that integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Outlook. 


What is the most effective solution to phishing attacks?

It's almost impossible for rule-based tactics to keep up with how quickly hackers continually evolve phishing techniques. Use AI-driven technologies to analyze real-time data and patterns to identify attack methods and stop sophisticated zero-day attacks.

How is machine learning used in phishing?

Cybercriminals depend on tricking employees and staying ahead of traditional technologies. They fool even the most tech-savvy employees, resulting in clicking on malicious links or inadvertently downloading malware. Companies can use AI to defend against these attacks. It can identify patterns and analyze contextual data. 

What makes a phishing attack successful?

Hackers employ psychological tricks to exploit weaknesses in the human security layer through social engineering techniques. A successful phishing attack targets zero-day (new) vulnerabilities and evades traditional anti-phishing solutions. Organizations must adopt a zero-trust approach, use the latest technologies to detect and mitigate these, and train employees on identifying these attacks.