What Is Phishing?

Almost everyone who has an email address will likely have received a phishing email at some point. These fraudulent emails, known as phishing scams are popular by many cyber criminals and can cause significant damage including identity theft and financial loss. Learn what you need to know about phishing here in this article.

WHAT IS PHISHING?

Phishing is a type of fraud where a cybercriminal tries to get sensitive information such as banking account information or passwords under false pretences. Typically, a fraudster would pose as a reputable bank, business, online provider or similar known business or organization.

In the case of phishing emails, the criminals use email messages that copy the exact look of genuine letters. Often, these phishing emails have attachments that would install malicious software on the victim’s computer or they may contain links to fake websites where the victim is tricked to enter their personal information. The word phishing comes from fishing, with the fake emails and fake websites acting as a lure to catch their victims.

WHY ARE PHISHING SCAMS POPULAR AMONG CYBERCRIMINALS?

The answer to this is easy. While it can be difficult to write elaborate malware software or to break into someone’s computer to acquire personal information, a phishing scam is much easier since it merely requires sending a convincing looking email.

At times, the criminals may go through lengths to make these fake emails look as genuine as possible. The emails can contain legit looking company logos and copy the exact wording of real letters. They may disguise malicious weblinks by using JavaScript so that it displays an image over the link making the link seem like a genuine link to a reputable company.

Many times, fraudsters take advantage of currently talked-about topics and trends on social media and news. An example for this is when it would become known that a large bank or online provider had been compromised by hackers and their passwords being stolen. The cyber criminals would then use this incident that’s talked about in the news as an opportunity to send fake emails to the customers, pretending they are from the bank or online provider, urging them to change their passwords due to the breach. Because of the hype in the media and people being worried, there is a higher chance that victims would fall for the phishing scam.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM PHISHING

As a rule, you should never submit sensitive information like passwords or logins when an email asks you to do so. Reputable companies rarely, if ever, ask so by email but require you to visit their secure website instead. If you have doubts about the veracity of an email, call the company and get in touch with a customer service representative first.

Ask your email provider whether they have a spam filter option. Many times, such a spam filter can filter-out known malicious addresses and websites and mark them as dangerous before they can reach your mailbox.

Install a reliable and up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware security software. These types of software programs normally make use of a database of malicious websites and dangerous email addresses to warn you from phishing attacks. A good anti-virus software program can also monitor and scan your emails to detect and eliminate those emails that would contain a phishing scam.