Phishing in the Workplace: 3 Attacks and 3 Ways to Protect Yourself

About the time most people learn how to spell phishing, they realize that it is an email-based social engineering tactic to get access to a user’s account or financial information. It probably won’t come as a surprise that phishing is now fairly common on LinkedIn and Text. 

No matter whether it is email, LinkedIn, or text, the tactics the scammers use are consistent. Here are three of the most common tactics being used by scammers today: 

1. Fake Messages from the “Boss” 

This is a particularly insidious and effective tactic. A message is sent via email/text/LinkedIn to the user with an urgent request to contact them from the CEO, CFO, or other high-ranking employees at the company. The scammer typically uses more targeted language in the messages that applies to the business to make the attack more effective. This is typically called a spear-phishing attack because of its more targeted nature.

2. Fake Tech Support Messages  

Some phishers try to mimic the IT support staff rather than an executive to get people to engage. The focus of this type of attack is to get the target to give up their credentials to important company accounts. The attacks usually start with something like “Important Alert: Your Account Has Been Hacked”. The user will then be instructed to click on a link to reset their password and/or give up other important information. The links will always go to fake sites that will not match the company name or name of the software that has been supposed hacked. 

3. Fake Contact Requests 

This is used most often on social platforms like LinkedIn, but it is seen on email and text also. When a fake LinkedIn request comes via email, the link embedded in the email will go to a nefarious site that can load malware or ask for login information. We are often excited to receive a request that might lead to new business, so these attacks are particularly effective on sales and finance staff. 

These are just a few examples, and it is important to know that the types of phishing attacks and the format by which employees are targeted in the workplace continue to expand. Regardless, there are some basic tactics that apply across email, text or LinkedIn. Here are three ways to keep yourself from getting “social engineered” by one of these attacks:

1. Look at the Sender Information 

Whether in email, text, or LinkedIn, the sender’s information will look wrong. Most sending info will have the right name with the incorrect email like: 

Boss Lady <> 

In the case of LinkedIn, you need to look at their profile picture, name, and work history. The picture will typically be pulled from publicly available photos and the work history will be very limited. 

2. Look for Poor Grammar and Terminology 

While the sophistication of attacks continues to improve, it is difficult to completely mimic a message from a boss, customer, or colleague. If the fake sender is using the term “customer” when you know the real sender always says “client”, you should be concerned. 

“Hey, send me your phone number. I have some important work for you” 

Also, if they send an email to ask for your phone number, you need to think whether that fits with how they would really interact with you. Once they ask for your phone number, and they text you rather than call you then it is 100% a scam. 

 3. Reach out Separately or Just Don’t Respond 

In most workplace phishing attacks, you have alternate ways to communicate with the supposed sender. If you are concerned, reach out to them by a different method – phone call or Slack – and see if that is really them. If you do not have another way to verify the information, and you are not certain if it is legitimate then ‘do nothing’ is not a bad option.

“John, I just received a strange email message that is supposedly from you. Did you just send me something?” 

If the scammer is trying to create a false sense of urgency for the boss or a customer, this is difficult to do. Just remember, though, if it is really an emergency – even in today’s world – they will call you. If it is a social network connection request, just login to the service separately and view the request there rather than clicking the email link. 

There is a lot more your company can do to help including using email filters and text blockers on company accounts and providing cybersecurity training on an annual basis. In fact, for many companies, these actions are required for them to follow industry cybersecurity regulations. If you aren’t certain what tools are available to you, reach out to your company’s IT staff or service provider. They will be happy to help you stay safe!  

CMMC and Cloud Compliance for Mid-Market Companies

The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) is a new and still developing standard for measuring a company’s cybersecurity effectiveness. It has been developed by the Department of Defense to measure and rate the cybersecurity practices of the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) who are supplying services to the DoD. 

While the CMMC only applies to DoD contractors, it is based on NIST CSF and NIST SP 800-171. These NIST frameworks are used across all industries to help companies gauge their cybersecurity effectiveness. CMMC combines NIST and other standards into a unified standard for cybersecurity, which can be applied to any company that wants to method for achieving higher levels of cybersecurity over time. 

CMMC is simply divided into five levels to allow organizations to put measures in place to reach the minimum cybersecurity necessary to protect customer data. The addition of a third-party audit organization (3PAO) certification provides proof that any organization working to achieve a certain CMMC level has the proper security measures in place.  

The five maturity levels range from “Basic Cybersecurity Hygiene” to “Advanced/Progressive.” Each maturity level includes progressively more demanding process and practice requirements to achieve the certification level. 

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Most mid-market and SMB companies will never need to go beyond Level 3 in the CMMC model unless they are doing work for the Federal government or another customer that maintains highly sensitive data and processes.  

In addition to the level, there are 171 practices and 5 processes across the five levels of CMMC maturity. These practices and processes are organized into 17 capability domains to make them more manageable. 

Looking at the number of practices and the capability domains can seem daunting. Since the CMMC and NIST are highly related, you can organize the CMMC Capability into the NIST Core Functions and then think about how you manage your cloud compliance to the CMMC levels by the functions. 

CMMC and the Cloud 

Since most mid-market companies are moving or have moved all their IT operations to the cloud, it is helpful to think of the CMMC in that context. If you move all your IT operations to the cloud, do you even need to worry about cybersecurity maturity? The answer is “yes”, but the good news is that the cloud and SaaS providers with whom you work will take on much of the cybersecurity burden and make achieving higher levels of CMMC easier. 

Looking at the following table, you can see that moving to the cloud allows a company to “outsource” much of its burden of CMMC requirements to the cloud provider. It is important as you look at a cloud or SaaS provider to know whether they are CMMC compliant themselves. You can use this as a framework to analyze whether they are following the necessary steps to be a partner in your CMMC success. 

CMMC compliance of cloud operations is very achievable for mid-market companies. The key to success is breaking the compliance process into smaller pieces and setting goals for achieving each level. Working with a company that can help you manage the project and work through implementing the needed security standards can make the process much easier and the likelihood of the success of the program much higher. 

5 Reasons Why Employee Information Management is Hard

1. HR, Finance and IT All keep their own Databases 

Employee information is kept by many groups within a company. It starts with information gathered by HR during the recruiting and hiring process. Finance also maintains employee information for payroll or equity information, and IT keeps employee information for user credentials for email, single sign-on (SSO), employee notifications, and other core IT services. These groups all maintain their employee information for different reasons and in different systems. 

Most of the information, though, is redundant and often incomplete. This quickly leads to a drift in information accuracy as the information in the systems are inevitably not maintained in the same way and same time. 

2. The data is sensitive to store and access 

Employee information is inherently sensitive and private, whether it is medical, financial, phone numbers, personal email, or home address. Employees expect a certain level of privacy in the way their information is handled by their employer. If the data is not stored and shared properly, this can lead to an unhappy employee at best and a legal and financial issue at worst.  

3. No Single Group Owns Employee Information 

Like a lot of information of other types within a company, no one completely “owns” employee information. HR is the logical owner of a lot of employee information, but IT is usually information security so it owns employee credentials to all or most systems and applications within the company. Similarly, finance also maintains sensitive stock ownership information that logically belongs with them. This creates complexity in how and where employee data is maintained. Mobile numbers and personal emails, for instance, are typically stored in every system that asks for employee information. When conflicts inevitably arise, which data is correct? 

4. Employee information changes rapidly 

Every time an employee moves, changes banks, changes their personal email, works on a new customer, gains a new certification or skill – their information changes. As employees come and go from a company, their information needs to be added and removed also. The number of small changes per employee and across all employees adds up quickly and different systems get of out sync rapidly. Traditional approaches create multiple portals or web forms for “Change of Address”, “Bank Change”, “Password change” – employees get overwhelmed with too many places to update the same information and usually only update what is easy and necessary. 

5. Regulations and compliance are tough to navigate 

There are a number of other regulations that govern employee data including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Most people think of General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) are privacy regulations for consumer data but they apply to employee data also. There are also regulations covering employee data privacy that are in the law-making process in state governments across the U.S. Tracking these regulations and implementing the information systems that follow the regulations puts tremendous pressure on updating all the disparate systems and services used by a company. 

What to do? 

Companies need to declare an owner of the employee information repository and the rules for which groups have access to what parts of the repository data. This reduces the cost complexity of maintaining the information and can enable the ROI of applications that are important but hard to justify – such as an employee mass notification system. 

Technically, implementing a hybrid integration layer (HIL) that consolidates data and applies dynamic transformations and security policies provides the basic infrastructure needed to put the company policies and processes into operation. An effective implementation includes connectors to all the systems used by HR, IT, finance, and any other group using the employee information. It also should provide the capability for employees to review and update their own information, while also enabling others within the company to securely and privately access data to enable better collaboration and information sharing across the company. 

Keep Updates — Up to Date


  1. Have A Cyber Readiness Plan 
  2. Establish Strict Policies and Procedures
  3. Keep Updates — Up to Date
  4. Force Authentication  
  5. Back-Up Everything! 
  6. Don’t Neglect Compliance 
  1. Continuous Network Intelligence
  2. Security Awareness Training 
  3. Combat the Password Crisis
  4. Don’t Skip the Insurance
  5. Reduce Supply Chain Vulnerabilities  
  6. Deploy a Multi-Layer Security Strategy  

This week we are reviewing #3 — Keep Updates — Up to Date While updates often introduce new or enhanced features into your apps, programs, and systems, they also install security and performance fixes known as patches. Undiscovered defects or flaws can leave your systems exposed. Hackers will exploit any vulnerability or security gap they find. Keeping your systems updated is vital for keeping your business cyber ready.  Failure to Patch systems results in a breach. Of the companies who reported that their business experienced one or more data breaches in the past year, 57% confirmed that these breaches probably occurred because a patch was available for a known vulnerability but not applied. Why are Security Patches Important? Security patches address known vulnerabilities within software systems. Once these flaws or weaknesses become known, cybercriminals begin looking for ways to exploit them. The sooner a security patch is installed, the faster your business can restore protection and security against threats associated with vulnerabilities. Below are the five effective elements for applying security patches :

  1. Automate. With an automated system, analyzing and deploying patches can be as easy and provide significant time savings.
  2. Plan your approach. Group systems by department, location, etc. to better handle your environment and more productively manage patches.
  3. Test patches. Don’t just push out patches before testing them. All patches should be thoroughly lab-tested. 
  4. Know the configurations. Make sure you synchronize and validate your development, test, and development patch configuration settings.
  5. Maintain patch levels. Be proactive and schedule scans on a daily or weekly basis to analyze the environment and deploy all critical patches. 

Learn more about Montra’s Security Services and how we can automate and optimize your system updates and patches

Establish Strict Policies and Procedures

1. Have A Cyber Readiness Plan
2. Establish Strict Policies and Procedures
3. Keep Updates — Up to Date
4. Force Authentication
5. Back-Up Everything!
6. Don’t Neglect Compliance

7. Continuous Network Intelligence
8. Security Awareness Training
9. Combat the Password Crisis
10. Don’t Skip the Insurance
11. Reduce Supply Chain Vulnerabilities
12. Deploy a Multi-Layer Security Strategy

This week we are reviewing #2 — Establishing Strict Policies and Procedures. 

Policies and procedures regulate business operations and are essential for defining the standards and expectations of business standards, employee behavior, and workplace actions. While establishing strict, security-focused protocols are crucial, a system of validation and enforcement is equally important. After all, rules without documentation are tribal knowledge.

To help you start developing security-driven policies and procedures for your business, download the 12 IT policy templates.