What is Phishing?
Phishing is an online scam/ fraudulent activity wherein criminals send fake emails or set up a fake site that looks like it belongs to a legitimate organization, or they pretend to be a reputable source and try to trick people into giving them private/ sensitive information, such as login credentials to an online database. It could also be online banking information such as credit cards or Social Security numbers.
Phishing has been around since the 1990s but has become more sophisticated and widespread in recent years. Phishers can use various methods to carry out their attacks, but the most common method is via email.
History of Phishing
The first phishing attack occurred in the internet’s early days when a malicious actor impersonated America Online (AOL) to trick users into giving up their personal information. AOL quickly shut down this early phishing scam, but it paved the way for more sophisticated attacks targeting users of all online services.
Over the years, phishing has evolved into a highly effective attack that can be executed to steal sensitive information like login credentials, financial data, and even personally identifiable information. While early phishing attacks were often crude and easy to spot, modern phishing attacks are much more sophisticated and challenging to detect.
Even though phishing attacks have been around for over two decades, they remain an effective way for attackers to access sensitive information.
Phishing in its Current Form
Phishers use different and innovative ways to carry out their fraudulent activities. For example, phishers use various methods to lure victims, such as creating fake websites that lead to warning messages such as – “This page does not exist,” or it may redirect the visitor to a fake website the scammers control that resembles the legitimate one, sending spoofed emails or text messages, and employ other deceptive techniques.
Once a phisher has lured a victim, they trick them into sharing their crucial and sensitive information, which then can be misused to steal their money or identity or even infect their computers with malware.
Hence, phishing is a serious threat to individuals and businesses, and it is essential to be aware of how it works to prevent it.
How to Spot a Phishing Attempt?
There are some common markers or activities that can indicate a possible phishing attempt by a malicious entity, which include –
- Unexpected or unsolicited communications
- Emails containing “urgent requests” or threats.
- Misspellings or grammatical errors.
- Suspicious links or attachments
- Spoofed email addresses or domains
- A message with unfamiliar greetings or salutations
- A message asking for a bank account number or an OTP
How to Know if You are Being Phished?
When you receive a message or an email from a phisher, it will often look similar to an email from a legitimate source. However, the sender’s address may be slightly different, or there may be a small typo in the email address.
The message may also contain threats with urgency to get you to act quickly. Phishers will often create fake websites that look identical to the actual website of the company they are trying to impersonate.
Phishers put a link into the email or message, and if you hover over a link in an email from a phisher, you may see that the URL is not going to the website of the company they are pretending to be; instead, it will go to a completely different website. They will also use spoofed telephone numbers to trick you into calling them. The number may appear to be from a legitimate company, but when you call it, you will be connected to a phisher who will try to get your personal information.
How to Protect Against Phishing Attacks?
When it comes to phishing attacks, prevention is critical; you can take steps to safeguard yourself and your organization from being targeted:
If you spot any suspicious link in the email, hover the mouse pointer over it before clicking it. If it reveals any domain or URL that is not what they are pretending to be, do not click on it and immediately delete the mail. A legit company will never force you to go to any URL or ask for your personal information via any unsafe channel such as email or other electronic means.
The phishers often use a brand name or any organization name that is not real. Do not download any images, documents, or files attached to an email unless you know whose email you are reading.
They will impersonate a big/known brand to trick you, but you must be careful while replying to emails or answering calls. Keep your software and anti-virus up to date. It will help ensure that you are protected against the latest phishing scams.
If you receive an email in which the person asks for money and says their financial situation is not good, know it is a scam. So, no matter how much they try to ask or gain sympathy, do not trust them.
If you find anything unusual, you can report it immediately to the relevant authorities.
How to Report Phishing?
A multinational alliance called the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) works to combat cybercrime. Send any suspicious or harmful emails to this organization at [email protected].
Below are country-specific emails to report any phishing activity:
USA: [email protected]
Europe: [email protected]
Turkey: [email protected]
Phishing is a serious problem that can have devastating consequences for individuals and businesses. Therefore, it is essential to be conscious of the dangers of phishing and take steps to protect yourself and your business from this attack.
You can also take legal action if someone has manipulated you and/ or you are facing any issues due to phishing attacks. Therefore, it is advisable to report any phishing attack or attempt to the authorities or any organization that oversees cases dealing with phishing.