What Exactly is Phishing?
Phishing is when attackers try to get users to do “the wrong thing.” For example, they might try to get them to click on a bad link that will download malware or send them to a sketchy website.
Phishing can happen over the phone, through text messages, or on social media, but the word “phishing” is mostly used to describe attacks that come through email.
Phishing emails can directly reach millions of users and hide among the many harmless emails that users get every day. Attacks can install software (like ransomware), stop systems from working, or steal money and intellectual property.
According to Kaspersky, the number of phishing attacks doubled in 2022, reaching over 500 million attacks. This statistic highlights the increasing threat that phishing poses to individuals and organizations worldwide.
Phishing emails can happen to any business, no matter how big or small. You could get caught up in a mass campaign where the attacker is just looking to get some new passwords or make some easy money, or it could be the first step in a targeted attack against your business with a specific goal, like stealing private data.
In a targeted campaign, the attacker may use information about your workers or company to make their messages more convincing and real. This is called “spear phishing” most of the time.
7 Types of Phishing Scams
1. Deceptive Phishing
This is the most common type of phishing attack. The attacker sends an email that looks like it came from a trusted source, like a bank, social media site, or online store, and asks the receiver to click on a link and enter personal information.
Often, the messages in these emails are pressing or scary, like a notice of a security breach or a request to update account information.
2. Spear phishing
This type of attack is more focused than deceptive phishing. It is aimed at specific people or groups and often uses personal information or context to make the message seem more real.
The attacker might look up the victim’s hobbies, job title, or other information to make a message that sounds real.
Whaling is like spear phishing, but it is used to get sensitive information from high-level leaders or people who have access to it.
The attacker could pretend to be the CEO, CFO, or another high-ranking person in the company in order to get access to private information.
Pharming is a type of attack in which the attacker sends the victim’s internet information to a fake website that looks like a real one, like a bank or shopping site. The target may put their login information or personal information on the fake site, which the attacker can use to get the information.
Smishing is a type of phishing that uses SMS, or text messages, to trick the user into clicking on a link or giving personal information. Often, the messages look like they come from a real source, like a bank or government body, and they may have urgent requests or warnings.
The attacker uses voice or phone calls to trick the victim into giving personal information, often by pretending to be a trusted person or organization. Spoofing technology could be used by the attacker to make the call look like it came from a real number.
7. Clone phishing
In this type of attack, the attacker makes an exact copy of a real email and sends it to the victim along with a malicious file or link. The email may look like it came from someone you trust, like a coworker or business partner.
How to Avoid Being a Victim of Phishing Scams
a. Install anti-phishing software
This software can help you find and stop fake emails, links, and websites, which makes it less likely that you’ll fall for a phishing attack.
Some anti-phishing software can also let you know when you’re going to a website that might be dangerous.
b. Use multi-factor authentication
This adds an extra layer of security to your accounts by requiring a second form of authentication, like a code sent to your phone, in addition to your password. Even if hackers know your password, this makes it harder for them to get into your accounts.
c. Teach your staff how to spot hacking attempts
Teach your workers how to spot phishing attempts, such as links, attachments, or requests for personal information that seem suspicious. Teach them to be careful when opening emails or clicking on links from people they don’t know, and to check the name of the sender and the validity of the message.
d. Use spam filters
Spam filters such as SpamExperts can help stop scam emails from getting to your inbox, which makes it less likely that you’ll fall for a fake attack. Most email providers have spam filters built in, but you can also use spam filters from outside your email source for extra protection.
e. Verify the identity of the sender
Before you reply to an email or click on a link, make sure you know who sent it and that the message is real. Check the sender’s email address, look for spelling or grammar mistakes, and be wary of language that sounds urgent or dangerous.
f. Keep your software up to date
Keeping your software up to date with the latest security patches can help prevent holes that hackers can use to launch phishing attacks. Make sure to update your operating system, web browser, plugins, and other apps regularly.
g. Use strong passwords
Each account should have a strong, unique password, and you might want to use a password manager to help you keep track of them.
Don’t use passwords that are easy to guess, like your name or date of birth, and don’t use the same password for more than one account.
h. Enable email authentication
Email authentication protocols like DMARC, SPF, and DKIM can help check if an email is real and lower the risk of phishing attacks.
These methods work by making sure that the email came from a real sender and hasn’t been changed along the way.
i. Check your accounts
Check your accounts regularly for strange activity, like unauthorised transactions or changes to your account details.
Set up alerts for strange behaviour and tell your bank or credit card company right away about anything that seems fishy.
j. Use secure connections
When entering personal information online, make sure you are using a secure connection, which is shown by a padlock icon in the address bar of your computer.
Don’t put personal information on public Wi-Fi networks or websites that aren’t safe. This makes it easier for cybercriminals to steal your information.
k. Don’t give out personal information
Be cautious when giving out personal information such as your name, address, phone number, or social security number. Scammers can use this information to steal your identity or commit fraud.
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l. Be cautious of unsolicited messages
Be wary of unsolicited messages, whether it’s by phone, email, or social media. Scammers can use these methods to try and trick you into giving them personal information or money.
m. Don’t trust too-good-to-be-true offers
If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers often use offers of free money, prizes, or vacations to lure in victims.
n. Be careful when clicking on links
Don’t click on links from sources you don’t trust, and be cautious of shortened URLs that can hide the true destination of a link. Hover over the link to see the true destination before clicking on it.
o. Be cautious of payment requests
Be cautious of payment requests that ask for payment through wire transfer or gift cards. These methods are often used by scammers to avoid detection.
p. Be cautious of job offers
Be cautious of job offers that ask for personal information, payment up front, or promise easy money. Scammers often use job offers to try and trick victims into giving them personal information or money.
q. Research before making purchases
Research before making purchases online or from unfamiliar sources. Check for reviews and ratings, and make sure the website has secure payment options.
r. Trust your instincts
If something feels off, trust your instincts and take a step back. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from someone you trust.
Phishing is a serious issue affecting both individuals and organizations. It is crucial to be aware of the methods used by phishers and to take steps to protect yourself and your sensitive information.
By being vigilant and taking proactive measures, individuals and organizations can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to phishing scams.
Don’t let phishing attacks compromise your personal or professional data. Invest in a trusted spam filtering solution today to take control of your inbox and protect yourself from malicious emails.