The Top 15 Techniques To Prevent Phishing Attacks In 2024

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Gareth Shelwell Published: June 25, 2024

If you want to step up your defense against phishing in 2024, you've come to the right place! Phishing isn't just a small nuisance—it's a major threat that evolves as quickly as technology does, and it can hit where it hurts the most, from draining financial resources to damaging your hard-earned reputation.

There is no silver bullet for phishing prevention. It's a combination of technical measures and human risk management, and those who implement such strategies walk the line between making users' lives difficult with additional processes and keeping the organization and its individuals secure.

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In this blog, we'll examine a wide variety of methods, from the basics like security awareness training to high-tech solutions like AI-driven threat detection. We'll also break down how effective, costly, and tricky each one is to implement so you can decide what's best for your budget and expertise.

Let's explore the top 15 phishing prevention techniques for 2024, ranked by effectiveness, cost-efficiency, and ease of implementation.

1. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Effectiveness: 7/10 Cost: 2/10 Implementation Difficulty: 4/10

MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring multiple forms of verification. While ineffective at preventing the phishing attempt from occurring, it's highly effective against unauthorized access, so even if someones has been phished and their credentials were compromised, attackers will still be unable to access the MFA-protected account. Any organization, big or small, looking to protect sensitive data should adopt MFA.

Pro-tip: For the best layer of security, use phishing-resistant MFA (e.g., FIDO security keys or smartcards).

2. Security Awareness Training

Effectiveness: 8/10 Cost: 4/10 Implementation Difficulty: 3/10

Security Awareness Training is highly effective at reducing phishing. It's common in organizations of all sizes due to its relatively low cost and simplicity to implement. This method involves providing employees with ongoing education on the latest phishing tactics and how to recognize them. Training can be self-hosted by an organization's staff or deployed through training platforms like CanIPhish. Effective training should include interactive quizzes and well-thought-out content that is relevant to the organization. If you want to take it to the next level, pair regular training with phishing simulation exercises to supercharge your phishing prevention strategy.

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Additional Resources: Interested in exploring Security Awareness Training? CanIPhish offers a powerful free tier to help you get started! If you already have security awareness training but are struggling with lackluster results or engagement, check out our article, "8 Best Practices to Supercharge Your Security Awareness Training Program," which is sure to help get things back on track!

3. Phishing Simulation Exercises

Effectiveness: 9/10 Cost: 4/10 Implementation Difficulty: 4/10

Phishing simulations are like those surprise pop quizzes you did back in school but for your workplace cybersecurity! They test how adept your team is at spotting and handling phishing attacks. These simulations have become a prominent phishing reduction method because they let everyone practice in a safe space—think of it as a dress rehearsal. Employees who click on a fake phish learn from it without the real-world consequences of a security breach. To make these simulations pack a punch, combining them with supplementary security awareness training is strongly advised. This one-two punch of practice and knowledge is a surefire way to hone your employees phish detection skills and uplift your overall cybersecurity posture.

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Additional Resources: Phishing simulations are CanIPhish's bread and butter. Creating a free CanIPhish account and sending your first simulated phishing exercise is a great place to start your journey. If you want to explore the topic more, head to our blog, "How to Train Employees on Phishing."

4. Secure Email Gateways

Effectiveness: 7/10 Cost: 6/10 Implementation Difficulty: 6/10

Secure Email Gateways (SEGs) provide a comprehensive set of tools that are particularly useful in combatting phishing. As well as email filtering, they include identity verification protocols (like DKIM, SPF, and DMARC) to prevent email spoofing, link and attachment scanning in real-time, and sometimes even sandboxing (executing suspicious attachments in a safe and isolated environment). SEGs are highly effective against a wide range of phishing attacks, including more sophisticated and targeted attempts. The complexity and cost of SEGs may mean they may be out of reach for smaller organizations. It is key to note that the effectiveness varies from one SEG vendor to the next.

Additional Resources: The 10 Most Popular Secure Email Gateways of 2022

5. AI-Powered Threat Detection

Effectiveness: 5/10 Cost: 7/10 Implementation Difficulty: 7/10

AI-powered threat detection uses machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence to monitor, analyze, and react to potential cybersecurity threats, including phishing. It does this by learning from vast amounts of data to identify patterns and anomalies that might indicate a threat. AI-powered threat detection excels at recognizing subtle signs of phishing that can bypass the usual detection methods, such as slight deviations in email sender behavior, unusual request patterns, or hidden malware signatures in attachments.

Additional Resources: For a glimpse into a future where AI-driven solutions redefine threat intelligence, check out this Forbes blog post: "How AI-Enabled Threat Intelligence Is Becoming Our Future."

6. Restrict Administrative Privileges

Effectiveness: 6/10 Cost: 2/10 Implementation Difficulty: 2/10

Much like MFA, restricting administrative privileges won't stop a phishing attack outright but can significantly limit the damage if an attack occurs. This approach, which is both cost-effective and straightforward to implement, ensures that users only have access necessary for their specific job functions. For example, a junior accountant doesn't need the same system access as the CFO. If the accountant's credentials are compromised, the attacker can't access high-level organizational data, significantly reducing the potential damage.

Image with a diagram of how the principle of least privilege works

Additional Resources: For further insights into this essential security practice, check out this in-depth article on the principle of least privilege from Cloudflare.

7. DNS Authentication Techniques (DKIM, SPF, DMARC)

Effectiveness: 6/10 Cost: 2/10 Implementation Difficulty: 6/10

These are email authentication methods designed to prevent spoofing by ensuring that the sender's domain name is authentic and hasn't been altered during email transit. At CanIPhish, we consider ourselves experts in DNS authentication techniques, and in our blog article titled "The Misadventures of an SPF Record," we reviewed 3 million domains and found many with incorrectly configured SPF settings. This oversight left large organizations, including the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense and the University of Miami, plus over a thousand other domains, exposed and vulnerable. Implementing this method is extremely cost-effective and only requires a bit of know-how. We highly recommend it.

Additional Resources: Is your domain at risk? Check with our Free Domain Scanning Tool!

8. Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)

Effectiveness: 6/10 Cost: 7/10 Implementation Difficulty: 9/10

Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is a powerful framework used to secure communications and validate the identities of entities involved in digital transactions. Here's how PKI can help prevent phishing:

  • Authentication: PKI uses digital certificates to ensure that the person sending the email is who they say they are. This prevents phishers from pretending to be someone else.
  • Encryption: PKI locks the content of emails so that only the person it's meant for can open and read it. This means they can't read what's inside even if someone intercepts the email.
  • Data Integrity: PKI checks that the email hasn't been messed with on its way to you. If a phisher tries to change something in the email, you'll be able to tell.

By checking who's sending the email, locking its content, and making sure it hasn't been altered, PKI makes it really tough for would-be phishers. Unfortunately, PKIs are very complex to set up and, if set up incorrectly, can leave your organization wide open to attack.

Image with diagram showing how PKI works

Additional Resources: Riley Dickens, from Encryption Consulting, has written a detailed guide on building your own PKI, complete with screenshots and architecture diagrams. If you're looking to implement PKI, this is a great place to start!

9. Endpoint Security Solutions

Effectiveness: 5/10 Cost: 5/10 Implementation Difficulty: 6/10

These are security measures installed on endpoint devices (like PCs, tablets, and smartphones) to detect and block malware and other threats. These often include antivirus software, firewalls, and device management policies. While this method is effective and widely recognized as a powerful passive defense mechanism, it does not protect against credential harvesting from phishing websites, which is a common phishing technique.

Additional Resources: If you're in the market for an endpoint security system, Garntner has put together a list of Endpoint Protection Platforms, complete with user ratings.

10. Regular Software Updates And Patch Management

Effectiveness: 5/10 Cost: 2/10 Implementation Difficulty: 4/10

A constant battle between good and evil rages on. Software vendors (the good guys) constantly update their products and patch vulnerabilities as they are discovered. Scammers and hackers using phishing (the bad guys) continually look to exploit users who have not updated their systems with the latest patches and updates. By keeping software up to date, you're effectively reducing the risk of a phisher exploiting your system. It's usually free and is a phishing prevention method we highly recommend.

Additional Resources: Norton has a great blog post,"5 reasons why software updates and patches are important."

11. Use Of A Secure Web Gateway

Effectiveness: 4/10 Cost: 6/10 Implementation Difficulty: 6/10

A Secure Web Gateway (SWG) prevents phishing by inspecting and filtering web traffic. It blocks access to known phishing sites, scans for suspicious links and content in real time, and checks encrypted traffic to detect hidden threats. Say, for example, an employee receives a phishing email with a link to a fake login page. They click on the link, but your organization's SWG kicks in, identifying the link as part of a known phishing scheme; the SWG immediately blocks the webpage from loading on the browser. This sounds amazing, but in reality, SWGs struggle with advanced threats. They can be bypassed with VPNs and can generate false positives. Hence their relatively low effectiveness score.

Image with diagram showing how SWG works

12. Email Encryption

Effectiveness: 4/10 Cost: 4/10 Implementation Difficulty: 7/10

Email encryption turns your messages into a secure code that only the intended recipient can decrypt and read. This keeps your conversations private safe from prying eyes who might intercept them. It also confirms the sender's identity and checks that the message hasn't been tampered with, helping to catch phishing attempts that rely on faking or altering emails. While it's a powerful tool for preventing tampering, setting up email encryption can be technically tricky. Plus, it doesn't guard against all types of phishing, such as spear phishing, where the threat doesn't involve intercepting emails but rather tricking you directly.

13. Raising Awareness With Communication

Effectiveness: 4/10 Cost: 1/10 Implementation Difficulty: 1/10

Hanging posters around the office is like having little billboards reminding everyone to stay sharp on cybersecurity. It's a great way to keep the topic front and center in everyone's mind, reinforcing just how important it is to be vigilant. And why stop there? Spread the word even further by using corporate social media platforms like LinkedIn or internal communication tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams. Sure, it's not the most foolproof method out there, but it's super cost-effective and a fantastic first step!

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Effectiveness: 3/10 Cost: 1/10 Implementation Difficulty: 2/10

Disabling hyperlinks in emails is a straightforward and cost-effective method of preventing phishing attacks. The idea is simple: if you remove the ability for users to click links in emails, you theoretically reduce the risk of them landing on malicious sites. However, this approach comes with significant drawbacks, such as massive user inconvenience, and only tackles one phishing element: links. It ignores other attack techniques, such as malicious attachments or information requests.

15. Incident Response Plan

Effectiveness: 2/10 Cost: 3/10 Implementation Difficulty: 5/10

An incident response plan is a playbook for dealing with emergencies like cyberattacks or data breaches. It lays out all the steps and who's responsible for what so you can handle the fallout fast and get back on track. But keep in mind, while this plan is great for damage control after the fact and we recommend every organization have one, it's not going to stop phishing attempts from happening in the first place.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common methods to prevent phishing attacks?

Phishing can be prevented through a combination of strategies, including regular security training for employees, the use of Secure Email Gateways, and strong authentication processes like multi-factor authentication (MFA) to secure access to sensitive information.

Is there a single solution to completely prevent phishing attacks?

No, there is no single solution that can completely prevent phishing attacks. Effective phishing prevention requires a layered security approach that includes education, technology, and ongoing vigilance.

How does updating software help prevent phishing?

Regularly updating software and operating systems ensures that security patches and updates are applied, which close vulnerabilities that phishers could exploit to gain unauthorized access or distribute malware.

Why is user education important in preventing phishing?

Educating users about the risks and signs of phishing helps them recognize suspicious emails, links, and websites. This awareness is crucial as human error is often the weakest link in cybersecurity defenses.

Gareth Shelwell author profile photo
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Gareth Shelwell

An Operations Manager dedicated to helping you safely swim amongst the internet of phish!