Even giants like, Mattel (the toy-manufacturer), aren’t immune to the phishing attacks of those virtual villains who try to obtain sensitive information like credit card details and access codes in order get their hands on your money.
The funny thing is a lot of startups have various potentially-fatal misconceptions about the susceptibility of their business, including that they would not be of interest to phishers. On the contrary, phishers are aware that startups are more concerned about growth and increasing profile than dealing with email scams, which most of us techies think we could handle anyway. It’s pretty easy to spot and delete, right? Wrong.
Some businesses employ a two-step system for authorising bank transfers, which can offer some protection but that didn’t exactly stop phishers from penetrating Mattel’s two-step system and getting them to authorise a transfer of nearly £3 million to an account somewhere in China.
What happened to Mattel you ask? Well, an unnamed senior executive received an email requesting a bank transfer from the CEO Mr Sinclair (or so she thought). Before authorising the transfer, she did not question it because she thought she had satisfied the company’s policy.
Whatever your policy on payment of invoices and bank transfers in general may be, creating cultural awareness through training and communication is the key to preventing phishing. Everyone is at risk of falling into a phishing net, regardless of seniority or how tech-savvy you are.
For example, make it a habit to step away from your emails when you receive a request for sensitive information or an email attaching an invoice for payment. Call up the person who you think sent you the email to double check that all is in order. You should not just give up information or open up an attachment because you think a trusted source has sent it.
This is not to say that you should slow down your business operations, it simply means that you should encourage your team to communicate with each other and err on the side of caution in certain circumstances. Mattel was lucky and did manage to get its money back but not all phishing experiences will end the same way and can have a devastating effect on a startup.