In the vast landscape of the digital world, where communication and commerce thrive, a lurking threat persists: phishing attacks. Phishing has evolved into a formidable weapon in the arsenal of cybercriminals, exploiting human psychology and technological vulnerabilities to deceive unsuspecting individuals and organizations. This blog delves into the intricacies of phishing attacks, their various forms, and offers practical insights on how to guard against this pervasive threat.
Phishing is one of the most common cyber attacks and it is only becoming more prevalent. In this process, cybercriminals try to fraudulently obtain data from both users and companies by deceit. They try to steal information such as bank details for monetary fraud, but it can also be used to obtain personal information from Internet uses for various nefarious purposes.
The best way to combat phishing is by identification and prevention. The forms of phishing can be diverse and falling into this type of computer trap is more common than it seems. It is essential to know more about it and how to avoid it so as not to suffer its consequences. This is why oneHOWTO shares our article on what is phishing in cybersecurity?
What is phishing in cybersecurity?
Phishing is a deception technique used by hackers whose objective is to steal the personal data of Internet users. They do so through a false web page which is designed to look legitimate. This can be the website of a tax agency, banking group or even a store. Although it looks legitimate, it is actually a trick.
The Anatomy of a Phishing Attack
At its core, phishing is a cybercrime that relies on social engineering to trick recipients into divulging sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card numbers, or personal data. Phishing attacks often take the form of seemingly legitimate emails, messages, or websites, aiming to mimic trusted entities like banks, social media platforms, or online retailers.
- Email Phishing: One of the most common forms, email phishing, involves sending deceptive emails that appear authentic. Cybercriminals often impersonate well-known organizations, urging recipients to click on malicious links or download attachments that contain malware.
- Spear Phishing: This targeted approach involves crafting personalized messages to exploit specific individuals or organizations. Attackers gather information from social media and other sources to create convincing emails tailored to the victim’s interests or role within an organization.
- Smishing and Vishing: Phishing attacks extend beyond email to other communication channels. Smishing involves fraudulent SMS messages, while vishing leverages voice calls to deceive victims into revealing sensitive information.
- Pharming: In this type of attack, cybercriminals compromise the domain name system (DNS) or manipulate router settings to redirect users to malicious websites, often without their knowledge.
- Whaling: Whaling targets high-profile individuals like executives or CEOs, seeking to gain access to valuable company data or financial assets.
Recognizing Phishing Red Flags
Awareness is the first line of defense against phishing attacks. By being vigilant and cautious, individuals can spot the telltale signs of a phishing attempt:
- Suspicious Sender: Scrutinize the sender’s email address closely, looking for slight variations or misspellings of legitimate domains.
- Urgent Requests: Be cautious of emails that create a sense of urgency, demanding immediate action or threatening consequences.
- Unexpected Attachments or Links: Hover over links to reveal their true destination before clicking, and avoid downloading attachments from unfamiliar sources.
- Poor Grammar and Spelling: Phishing emails often contain noticeable errors that reputable organizations would not make.
- Requests for Sensitive Information: Legitimate organizations rarely ask for sensitive data like passwords or credit card numbers via email.
Phishing attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated. They commonly use big organizations such as PayPal or Amazon with which the internet user is likely to have an account. The more commonplace the problem or opportunity, the more likely the person will click on the link to solve it. This is because they often won’t give as much thought to something they use regularly.
How to avoid phishing attacks
To avoid phishing, you will need to ensure you have the right level of cybersecurity. It is just as important to identify a threat as it is to use software for protection. This attack usually comes in the form of a message or email. To identify it, pay attention to these signs:
- Make sure the sender’s name is known and check the legitimacy of the email address from which it is sent.
- Be wary of emails whose language contains spelling, writing or matching errors. Cybercriminals often use machine translators which are prone to making typos and other mistakes.
- If you are suspicious of the content of the message, you are probably right. If it is a prize from a raffle in which you have not participated or from a job offer in which you did not apply, avoid accessing it or deleting it.
- Hover the mouse over the link or link that contains the email. Normally, the real URL address to which that same link would direct you will appear in a small window. If it does not correspond to the one that appears in the email or you think that it does not correspond to the one of the site that it represents, it is likely that it is a phishing attack.
Also, you can protect yourself from phishing by using a good browser and using an antivirus:
- A good web browser can block many phishing threats. Windows browsers such as Microsoft Edge and Mozilla Firefox are capable of blocking more than 70% of threats. You can see the percentage of phishing blocked by each of them in the analytics of these browsers.
- Having a powerful antivirus on your computer or computer system will also protect you from phishing. The protection offered by the antivirus is added to the basic one offered by the web browser, thereby achieving greater blocking of phishing pages. If you use Google Chrome together with a good antivirus, you could be protected against 96% of these threats, but you should keep in mind that some antiviruses like Windows Defender offer little protection against phishing. You can even use antivirus apps on your smartphone.
Finally, if you think there might be a legitimate problem, you can go to the website directly through a trusted web browser. Although clicking the link in an email is handy, a good rule of thumb is not never use the link included in an email and go to a website directly. If the website doesn’t have any information in your account, it means someone was trying to phish you.
Consequences of phishing
Taking all possible precautions to identify and prevent phishing will help you avoid this threat. If the worst does happen and you are a victim of this cyberattack, it is important that you know what its consequences are.
A successful phishing attack can have serious consequences such as fraudulent credit card charges, money theft, loss of access to personal data (e.g. videos, photos and files) or cybercriminals putting others at risk by posing as you.
In the business world, the risks that companies are exposed to include the exposure of personal information corresponding to clients and employees, the loss of corporate funds, the loss or theft of access to confidential files and the deterioration of the company’s reputation. In many of these cases, the damage caused by phishing may be irreparable. For all these reasons, it is essential for both Internet users and companies to protect themselves from phishing.
There are other types of cybersecurity which can help you to avoid being defrauded. One of the most useful is a good VPN. Check out our link on how to use a VPN to optimize internet browsing to learn more.