Online scammers use several methods to trick users into giving private information such as banking credentials, Social Security numbers, and more. One of the most common ways to scam users is through Phishing Attacks.
In this post, we will know what a Phishing attack is and how to recognize and avoid it.
What is Phishing Attack?
If you are a regular internet user, you might have received emails or messages like, “You’ve made the 5-billionth search,“ “You have won the lottery of $1000!”, “Your Bank Account will be blocked please review your details,” or something similar. In most cases, such emails are fake and sent to users to trick them into providing crucial information. Such a technique in which users are deceived by providing “too good to be true” offers is known as Phishing.
As you can figure out, Phishing is an attempt to infiltrate a user’s privacy by psychologically attacking the victim through social engineering methods.
Phishing attacks are such skillfully conducted that even some experts get tricked by it and willfully provide private information such as personal details, financial details, social security numbers, credit card details, login credentials, sensitive info of the company, and more.
To conduct Phishing, cyber attackers use common methods such as offering links, emails, text messages, social media channels, and more similar communication methods. Generally, victims fall into such scams because of fear, urgency, greed, or curiosity.
How Phishing Works?
Traditionally, the scammers would trick users into clicking on a link or filling a form for stealing the information. After the victim clicks on the fake link, they will be redirected to a web page that would look like an authentic page of an organization, such as a bank.
Now the user would willfully follow the instructions of the fake webpage, thinking of it as a genuine one. The page may ask you anything like update or provide sensitive information to solve the problem.
Using this trick, the cyber attackers can get more information such as the answer to your security question, your mother’s maiden name, etc. All such information is helpful in infiltrating an account.
How to Recognize Phishing Attempts?
As already mentioned, Phishing attacks are conducted by skilled scammers after doing a lot of research on the victims. So, it isn’t easy to identify it naturally. However, there are certain signs that might indicate that there is something suspicious going on.
- The emails or messages used for tricking users often looks like they are from reputed or trusted organizations like Microsoft, Netflix, or banks. If they ask for personal information on emails or calls, then there is something fishy because big organizations would never ask their customers for such details through emails or calls. You can easily spot fake emails or texts by looking for any grammatical or punctuation mistakes. A message from a reputed organization is implausible to contain such errors.
- Scammers would try their best to trick you into clicking a suspicious link or directly providing the information. For that, they use several methods like:
- Scare you by telling you that your bank account would be blocked if you don’t update your information by clicking on the given link. That link is fraudulent.
- Provide you offers such as lottery, money, discounts and more.
- Inform you about benefits(fake) that the government offers, and ask you to fill a form to get those benefits. The form will ask you for sensitive details.
- The tricksters also conduct extensive research on an individual or organization before attempting the Phishing. They can trick you by offering you discounts and offers on the things you like, such as books, gadgets, or food. Currently, the most common way used by scammers to trick youngsters is by offering them a free or low-cost subscription of streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, or Disney+.
- Another thing that can help you in recognizing a phishing attempt is your instinct. If, after receiving a fascinating offer through an email, you feel that it is too good to be true, then your instinct might be right, and you must be very careful moving ahead.
How to Avoid or Protect Yourself from Phishing Attempts?
Though Phishing is a psychological attack, done with utmost research and attention, you can still protect yourself from it by practicing few things.
- Never share your personal information on emails or calls, irrespective of the sender. If any organization such as a bank requires your private information, they would ask you to visit the bank personally and not through filling a form on any webpage.
- No authentic customer care operator would ask for the OTP or the CVV number of your Debit or Credit Card.
- Verify the authenticity of the website before taking any action on it. For example, if any webpage claims to provide you free rewards, check its domain name on Google. You will easily find any negative or positive reviews of it.
- If you are running any organization, educate your employees on the common ways used by scammers for conducting Phishing. The best way to avoid Phishing is by recognizing it. If an individual is well informed in advance, then it would be easy to avoid such scams.
- Enable multi-factor authentication on all your major accounts so that even if anyone got access to your login credentials through Phishing, they wouldn’t get passage to the account.
- Keep installed a robust antimalware solution on all your system. An antimalware would detect malicious links sent to your emails or texts, and thereby preventing Phishing.
- Another thing is to keep changing your login passwords frequently and choose different passwords for different accounts. Many users have a habit of keeping one password for all their accounts. Though this might reduce the strain of remembering many passwords, it may prove very costly in the longer term. Imagine if an attacker got a hand on the password of one of your accounts, and the password is the same for all others; your all accounts would be vulnerable. If you find it challenging to create and remember a password, you can get a dedicated password manager.
Phishing attacks are one of the most dangerous cybersecurity threats as they are usually conducted through social engineering, that is, by playing with human psychology.
The modern security solution can handle anything technical like adware or browser hijacking by recognizing their pattern and signature.
However, the human psyche cannot be understood by any security program. So, it is imperative to keep yourself updated with the latest phishing techniques used by attackers.
This post will give you the idea to identify and prevent Phishing, but in the end, it is your sense and intuition that would help you in recognizing “TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE” offers and other Phishing tricks.
Hardeep has always been a Windows lover ever since she got her hands on her first Windows XP PC. She has always been enthusiastic about technological stuff, especially Artificial Intelligence (AI) computing. Before joining PC Error Fix, she worked as a freelancer and worked on numerous technical projects.