What Are Phishing Attacks And How To Avoid Them
Since the inception of the internet, hackers have made phishing attacks a common phenomenon. Today, these digital scams pose threats to people and businesses across the globe. Just last year, 83% of businesses reported phishing attacks.
These attacks are often successful, and as a result, more individuals have become victims of phishing. This is why it’s critical to know how to spot a phish before it attacks. But, before we get into the best phishing prevention steps, we’ll address what phishing is.
What is phishing?
Phishing involves the fraudulent use of communication methods. These methods can include emails, texts, phone calls, or social media.
A phishing attack is a type of digital scam. It leverages social engineering tactics to cleverly disguise fake messages as legitimate. In the process of a phishing attack, a person will often receive a message that directs them to take action. This will require them to either click on a link or open an attachment. If the person performs this action, it can result in the installment of malicious software on their device. Or, they’ll be asked to enter personal or confidential information.
These scams launch multiple security threats to companies and individuals every day. Thus, preventing phishing attacks is critical to ensure safety in a digital world.
So, let’s cover what makes these attacks so threatening.
What’s the purpose of an attack?
A digital fraudster’s goal is to trick you into providing personal information. They’ll then use your information to gain access to your accounts. Scammers prey on unsuspecting internet users to get sensitive data from them. Such data may include passwords, login credentials, and credit card information. Thus, a digital attack attempts to take advantage of the lapse in a person’s decision-making.
Phishing prevention tactics vary based on the medium used to launch the attack. So, let’s go over three main types of phishing.
Types of phishing attacks
There are many different strategies fraudsters employ to carry out a scam. The three most common methods are deceptive, spear, and email phishing.
This is the most common type of a digital scam. In a deceptive ploy, a scammer will impersonate a legitimate business. The purpose of the impersonation is to deceive users into giving confidential information.
These email attacks are done through a domain that mimics a trusted and popular company. For example, the email address might look like one from Apple, Target, Microsoft, or PayPal.
In a nutshell, deceptive phishing makes fake emails look real. As a result, using phishing prevention methods on deceptive attacks can be difficult.
Spear attacks are all about getting personal. Their success relies on adding a personal touch to their messages. This is how they trick the user into believing they have a connection with the sender.
Like a deceptive attack, spear phishing impersonates a legitimate company. But, spear attacks also customize their messages with personal details about the recipient. They often tell stories that unsuspecting users fall for. This is why recognizing; and thus, stopping a spear phishing attempt takes practice.
In this type of attack, a fraudster will use an email that looks like the legitimate email of an individual or company. The email may request the recipient to click on a link, open an attachment, send a payment, or change a password.
Dangers of phishing attacks
Phishing prevention is necessary for protecting your valuable data and ensuring your safety. Once a cybercriminal gains access to your private information, they can use it for fraudulent activities.
Without protection against phishing attacks, a successful scam could result in stolen information. This information includes any passwords, accounts, or social security numbers. When this information is stolen, it can lead to identity theft. Additionally, your personal information may get sold to cyber scammers in underground markets.
A scammer who gains access to your bank accounts or credit card information can steal money from you. They can also steal money from your business or other people you work with. This depends on what information and which accounts they take hostage.
How to avoid a phishing attack
We know now why phishing prevention is crucial for both individuals and organizations. So, let’s dig into how to prevent a phishing attack. The first step is learning how to recognize a phish when you see one.
Know the key identifiers of phishing
There are three main indicators that most digital scams share. Understanding what these are is key to preventing phishing and spoofing.
Makes you feel pressured or afraid
Any email that makes you feel pressured to do something or scared if you don’t do something is most likely a scam. These emails will tell you if you don’t perform a certain action, something terrible will happen as a result. Cybercriminals leverage this fear. And this is why 23% of users open phishing emails.
Asks you to complete an action
For any phishing attack to be a success, a scammer needs the recipient to complete an action. Legitimate businesses won’t ask for sensitive data, like your social security number, through an email. So, a good phishing prevention rule is to not give out confidential information via email. This is especially true if the email was unsuspected.
Directs you to an illegitimate website
A link provided in a phishing email may show a legitimate website. But, be sure to check that it doesn’t change to a different website when you hover over it. You’ll want to make sure that the URL provided is the same URL you’re taken to.
Conduct awareness training
Security awareness training is arguably the most important phishing prevention strategy. Educating yourself is key to preventing phishing attacks. This is because it increases user competency, enabling you to outsmart a cybercriminal.
Invest in security software
Phishing can be difficult to prevent if you’re only using email spam filters as protection. These filters are great for keeping some phishing attempts from entering your inbox. But, most users will still see spam from time to time. This is because fraudsters constantly evolve to outwit current technology, like spam filters.
Investing in security software will provide an additional layer of protection against cybercriminals. This software detects new security threats and fraudulent content before they reach your inbox.
Enable multi-factor authentication
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a great phishing prevention tactic. It significantly decreases a scammer’s chances of gaining confidential information. MFA makes it difficult for fraudsters to gain access to your accounts. This is true even if they already have your login credentials.
Phishing prevention for email
The best way to respond to phishing emails is to report them as soon as you see them. Reporting is essential to hindering future fraudsters from entering the inboxes of others. You can forward any suspicious emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. You should also never reply to phishing emails or open any attachments or links they contain.
How to recover from a phishing attack
If you become a victim of a phishing attack, there are a few steps you can take to recover.
1. Go to IdentityTheft and follow the steps they provide for recovery.
2. Update your computer’s security software and change all passwords.
3. If the attack happened on a work computer, notify the IT department.
4. Report the scam to your bank and credit card company if financial information was stolen.
Your best guide to phishing prevention
Phishing attacks will continue to threaten the digital landscape across the globe. This is because hackers constantly develop new techniques to keep up with technology. With time, scammers get craftier at designing messages that appear legitimate. So, follow this guide to help you spot a phish before it strikes.