Phishing, Its Types, and Prevention Methods
In This Article
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Phishing protection has become essential as more criminals turn to internet frauds to acquire personal information. Spam emails may be avoided, but phishing emails might appear natural. Many phishing attacks are personalized for the victim, so it is critical to be able to identify the red flags. Scams have been around on the internet for a long time; however, phishing is more difficult to detect than one might believe.
Phishing scams are becoming increasingly common, with cybercriminals disguising themselves as people they know or trust to bait unsuspecting victims. If you click on a link, you could be the next victim of these scams. Be careful out there!
What is Phishing?
Phishing is a form of social engineering crime in which criminals pose to be an authentic entities to trick victims into providing sensitive information or funds. Phishing attacks can take many forms, but all involve deception designed to dupe the victim.
Unlike technical vulnerabilities, social engineering attacks exploit human psychology weaknesses. In phishing scams, the attacker will send the victim a message under pretences, pretending to be from a credible source like an organization or insurance company. Many people frequently receive emails from official sources, which creates opportunities for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting victims.
However, since this is usually the first notification a user receives following a security breach, it can be challenging to identify precisely what these emails attempt to persuade them to do. For example, email subject lines such as "This file contains malware".
The most frequent phishing attack is email, but it may also be done via instant messaging, text messages, or even a phone call. Many phishing attacks employ a sense of urgency to entice their targets: an account that an unknown party has accessed, impending withdrawals from a victim's bank account, or a task that must be completed to keep one's job. Cybercriminals understand that they can exploit human emotions to bypass even the most sophisticated computer defences. Phishing scams are often used to gain access to an organization as part of a larger scheme that may include other types of hacking.
While phishing incidents have long been a problem, their scale and complexity have increased dramatically in recent years. At the height of the worldwide CoVID-19 pandemic, attackers took advantage of fear, uncertainty, and unrest to increase their efforts. Phishing has been utilized in everything from basic financial frauds to extremely complex cyber espionage and ransomware attacks.
How Can I Tell If An Email Or Website Is A Scam?
There are some things to look for that can help you spot a phishing email or website:
The message includes a sense of urgency, threats, or promises of rewards
The message is from a sender that you don't know or from a person posing as a known contact
The email has poor grammar and spelling mistakes
The website has a strange URL or one that doesn't match the company it's pretending to be
The website looks fake or "off" in some way
Some Interesting Phishing Statistics
According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, more than 1.2 million unique phishing attacks in the first half of 2017 alone. That's an average of nearly 16,000 per day!
These attacks are becoming more and more sophisticated, and they're targeting both individuals and organizations of all sizes. Small businesses are now the most common target of phishing scams.
Here are some other interesting statistics about phishing:
• A successful phishing operation costs an average of $1.6 million.
• 95% of all cyberattacks start with an email
• 30% of people click on a phishing email
• 66% of organizations have experienced a phishing attack in the past year
Who Is Most Vulnerable To Phishing Scams?
No one is safe from phishing attacks- not children or the elderly. Everyone is vulnerable to identity theft and other malicious cyber crimes at home or in the office. Today, there are many ways for people of all ages to be connected to the internet. If con artists find your contact information online, they could add you to their phishing target list.
It is now more challenging to hide your email address, phone number, and social media accounts. So even having just one of these exposes you to potential danger. Also, phishing attacks can target anyone indiscriminately or attack specific groups of people with personalized messages designed to deceive them.
Why Do Crises Provide A Fertile Ground For Phishing Scams?
Phishing is a cybercrime aiming to deceive and create urgency to succeed. When a significant crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, cybercriminals get the ideal opportunity to entice unsuspecting people into biting on their phishing bait. A crisis creates more anxiousness throughout the general public. People seek guidance from those in power, like government officials and employers. Therefore, an email from a reliable source tells the reader to do something quickly or promises a good outcome and is less likely to be questioned than usual. A careless click could lead to a victim's system being hacked or infected. If a company has a hierarchical structure, it might be more susceptible to falling for phishing attacks. Through emails that sound authoritative, employees are coerced into cooperating. The same goes for workplaces where asking for help is discouraged, there isn't much trust between co-workers, or collaboration is low overall. For example, if a university administrator received an email stating that someone was trying to take over his account and needed to update his information immediately to secure it, the warning mixed with the authoritative instructions would probably cause him to panic and click the bait.
Phishing: How It Works?
A message delivered by email, social media, or other electronic communication methods is a phishing attack's fundamental component.
A phisher may pose as someone trustworthy to gain access to personal information, like email addresses or social media accounts. They do this by in-depth research of their victims through public resources such as social networks. Knowing the victim's name, job title, and interests can create a realistic fake message that is more likely to trick the victim.
Often, the emails a target receives look as if they come from someone the victim knows or an organization they are affiliated with. These attacks usually happen when there is a malicious attachment or link to a harmful website. Often, attackers will go so far as to create counterfeit websites that resemble ones owned by trustworthy sources such as banks, employers, and schools. The goal of these sites is to collect private information like passwords and payment data from unsuspecting victims.
Copywriting and poor use of typefaces, logos, and layouts may be used to identify phishing emails. On the other hand, many cybercriminals are getting more skilled at making convincing communications due to professional marketing methods utilized to evaluate and improve their emails' effectiveness.
Different Kinds of Phishing Scams
Phishing campaigns are a crafty way of conning people that attackers have been perfecting for years. These emails target one person specifically and include enough personal information to seem like it's coming from a friend. Once the bad actor has your sensitive data, they can do whatever they want with it. And according to PhishMe Research, ransomware makes up more than 97% of all phishing emails!
Following are some of the most popular phishing types attacks:
If you want to aim for a specific fish while fishing, it's best to use a spear rather than a pole. The same goes for spear phishing emails: These cyberattacks focus on targeting a specific group or type of individual (like company system administrators) instead of spamming everyone in sight and hoping that somebody falls victim.
They might use social media to learn about the interests of their target or comb through publicly available information to find details that can be used to make the email seem more personal. Hackers and hacktivists sponsored by the government have been responsible for such attacks. Cybercriminals use similar tactics to resell sensitive data to governments and commercial organizations.
These cybercriminals utilize customized methods and social engineering tactics to customize messages and websites successfully. Even high-ranking targets within businesses, such as top executives, can find themselves opening emails they thought were secure because of this blunder. This mistake allows cybercriminals to access the information they need to attack their networks.
Whaling is a more particular form of phishing that goes after very large targets, metaphorically and literally. These email attacks usually go for high-level executives such as CFOs, CEOs, or any other CXX within a certain business or industry. For example, you may receive an email telling you that your firm is being sued and that you should click the link for more information.
If you analyze past successful whaling campaigns, you'll find that they have one key element in common with successful phishing campaigns: a sense of urgency. The message makes it seem like there will be dire consequences if the recipient doesn't act quickly, which causes them to forego normal security measures. Scammers who write successful whaling emails know that their audience won't respond to a simple deadline reminder or an email from a superior; instead, they play on other fears, such as legal action or damage to reputation.
SMS Phishing or Smishing
Smishing is a dangerous or short message service (SMS) attack. The attacker sends a malicious text to the victim's cell phone to commit smishing. The text might look like it's from a trustworthy source and include clickable links or return phone numbers.
Smishing attacks can be very difficult to spot, as they often look like regular text messages from someone you know. If you receive a suspicious text message, do not respond to it and delete it immediately. You should also report it to your carrier so they can take steps to block future smishing attempts.
With more people using their devices for work, smishing has become a business and consumer threat. Smishing is the most common type of text message scam, so it's no surprise it's on the rise. Cybercrime targeting mobile devices is rising, just like mobile device usage. In addition to texting being the most frequent use of smartphones, several other elements make it a particularly dangerous security risk.
The goal of Vishing is the same as that of other phishing attacks. The attackers are still on the lookout for sensitive personal or commercial data. Voice communication is used to conduct this operation. As a result, the name contains a "v" rather than a "ph."
Oftentimes, vishing attacks happen when someone pretending to be from Microsoft calls you. They'll tell you they found a virus on your computer and then ask for your credit card details so they can supposedly install updated antivirus software. In reality, the attacker now has your information, and you've likely installed malware onto your device. This could include a banking Trojan or bot meant to watch everything you do online to steal more sensitive data like bank account info or passwords.
Email phishing scams have been common since the 1990s and usually involve a hacker obtaining your email address. They'll send you an urgent message claiming there's been a security breach on your account and try to get you to click on a link. These attacks are often easy to spot due to mistakes in grammar or spelling in emails.
Phishing emails can often be difficult to detect, but several key indicators typically give them away. To tell if an email is fake, examine the email source and the link you're being redirected to for any grammar mistakes or suspicious language.
Criminals use email phishing to collect this sensitive information because it is relatively easy to do and can be very effective. Studies have shown that even sophisticated users can fall for well-crafted phishing emails. Email phishing is also difficult to detect because fraudulent messages often mimic legitimate communications from companies or organizations that victims are familiar with.
The sextortion phishing scam involves a hacker who email-spoofs you and pretends to have access to your account. They threaten to release a (false) video of you unless you pay them money. The hackers threaten to show explicit videos they claim were recorded from your computer camera unless you pay them, often demanding payment in cryptocurrency.
These scams create a false sense of credibility by including intricate details about the scam itself, and in some cases, the phisher also manages to acquire the victim's password. This is a very serious type of phishing attack that can have emotionally and financially devastating consequences.
Search Engine Phishing
Search engine phishing is a type of internet fraud that targets users through search engines. The individual may receive offers or messages that entice them to go to the website on this platform. Although the search may appear legitimate, the website is fraudulent and exists only to steal personal information from users.
The objective of search engine phishing, also referred to as SEO Trojans or Search Engine Poisoning, is for cyber criminals to be displayed in the top result on a search engine. You will be redirected to their website when you click on the hacker's link in the search engine results. These websites may attempt to steal your information when you interact with them and enter personal information. Bank sites, social media networks, eCommerce websites, and money transfer businesses are all popular target sites for hackers.
Pharming is the criminally fraudulent process of directing Internet users to a counterfeit website by impersonating a legitimate one. By doing this, attackers hope to collect their victims' personal information or financial data.
Pharming attacks usually occur through malicious code injected into a legitimate website or DNS server. This code redirects users to a fake website without their knowledge or consent. Occasionally, phishing emails may contain links that lead to a spoofed website.
Once redirected to the fake site, users may be tricked into entering personal or financial information such as credit card numbers, social security number, passwords, and bank account details. Attackers can also use pharming to install malware on victims' computers or mobile devices.
Pharming can be difficult to detect because the fake website may look identical to the legitimate one. Users should be cautious of any unexpected redirects and check for spelling errors or other irregularities in the URL.
Pharming exists by taking advantage of the functions that allow people to go online. The Domain Name System (DNS) transforms domain names typed into browsers into IP addresses. This lets computers read them as locations. When somebody wants to visit a website, their browser connects to a DNS server that has been given the IP address for that site beforehand.
Though difficult, phishing attacks are not impossible to prevent. Some experts consider them the hardest cyber threat to defend against, but with basic cyber hygiene practices, you can at least attempt prevention. Though you can use filters to reduce the number of phishing attempts in your inbox, it's impossible to stop them all. Instead, focus on how to lessen the effects of these attacks in your organization. This way, even if some manage to get through, they won't be able to destroy anything.
Tips For Phishing Prevention
Here are a few tips that may help you prevent phishing:
Understand What A Phishing Scam Is And How It's Carried Out
Although new phishing attack methods are created frequently, they often have similar characteristics which can be discovered if you're aware of what signs to look for. For example, various sites online will provide information on the latest phishing attacks and their key components. Suppose you receive regular security awareness training that updates you on emerging attack methods as soon as possible after they've been developed. In that case, your organization is much less likely to fall victim to a future attack.
Make Sure Not To Click Suspicious Links
You should never click on a link in an email even if you know who the sender is. The best thing you can do is hover over the link to see where it goes before clicking. Some phishing scams are very sophisticated, using fake websites that mirror real ones to steal login/credit card information. So, if possible, go directly to the website through your search engine instead of clicking on any links.
Install Anti-Phishing Add-Ons For Free
Most browsers have helpful add-ons that tell you if a website is dangerous or warn you about notorious phishing sites. They aren't typically costly, so there's no excuse to install them on all of your company's devices. There are several of these available, including the Firefox Web of Trust plugin. These let you check whether the site you're looking at is safe and inform you if any phishing attempts are discovered.
Keep An Eye Out For Spoofed Email Addresses
Phishers often use addresses almost identical to legitimate organizations, with only slight changes. They may also pose as someone you know by hacking into their account and sending messages from there. Be on the lookout for small changes in email addresses, and be suspicious of any messages from unexpected sources. If in doubt, contact the person/organization directly to check whether they sent the message.
Don't Trust An Unsecured Site With Your Information
If you're using a laptop or desktop computer, the first thing to do is check the URL and ensure it starts with "HTTPS" and has a locked padlock symbol beside it. These sites may not be designed maliciously, but it's best to be cautious than sorry. The "s" before the website address stands for "secure," meaning that data on the site is secure. You should also notice a lock icon in your browser's location bar. Some phishing sites may use a valid SSL certificate to seem more legitimate. However, you can usually inspect the certificate details by hovering over the padlock symbol to see whether anything appears odd.
Change Passwords Regularly
By regularly changing your passwords, you are creating an extra layer of protection against hackers who may have already gained access to your accounts without you knowing. This will prevent them from being able to continue their attacks and will lock them out completely. Ideally, you should be doing this every 30-60 days. Creating a secure password is important to protecting your personal information. Follow these guidelines for creating a strong password:
-Use a mix of lower and upper case letters, special characters or numbers
-Make it at least eight characters long
-Avoid using easily guessed words or easily accessible personal information
Keep Your Software Updated
It can be tricky to keep track of all the update notifications, and it may be tempting to put them off or ignore them altogether. But that's not a good idea. Security updates and fixes are issued for a reason: they're often meant to keep up with current cyber-attack techniques by patching security flaws. Suppose you don't regularly update your web browser. In that case, you risk being targeted by phishing emails via previously identified vulnerabilities that could have been easily fixed if you had updated your software.
A Firewall Is A Must
By blocking dangerous websites and downloads, firewalls act as a barrier between your computer and potential attackers, lowering the chances of them gaining access to your environment. When used in conjunction with desktop firewalls or network firewalls, they can encrypt your data so that it is inaccessible to cyber criminals.
Ignore The Pop-Ups
Pop-ups are more of a nuisance than they've ever been in today's world. The most harmful pop-ups are usually stopped by preinstalled ad-blocker software in modern browsers. If you avoid the ad blocker, don't be fooled into clicking! Pop-ups occasionally attempt to deceive you by indicating that the "Close" button is somewhere else; as a result, be on the lookout for an "x" in one of the corners.
Keep Important Information To Yourself Unless You Have No Choice
Unless you 100% trust the site you're on, don't offer up your credit card information unless necessary. Before providing any of your personal information on a website, always check that the site is legitimate and secure. There are many legitimate reasons why companies or organizations need to verify your identity. Still, you should always be cautious about giving out personal information like your date of birth, social security number, or your mother's maiden name. If you are unsure, call the company back using a number you know to be correct (e.g. from their website) to verify that the request is legitimate.
Use A Data Security Platform
Being the victim of a phishing attack is bad enough, but if you're not aware of how to identify or respond to one, it can be catastrophic. Luckily, data security platforms are designed to do just that - notify users of any unusual activity and help locate affected accounts so IT/Security teams can take action. This way, even if an attacker has already obtained your sensitive information, you may be able to prevent further damage.
Be Aware Of What You Share On Social Media
Be careful about what information you share on social media sites like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Remember that anything you post is publicly accessible and could be used by cybercriminals for identity theft or other malicious purposes. Try to limit the amount of personally identifiable information. If you must share such information, consider making it available to only your "friends" or "connections."
How Can Internet Security Software Be Your Savior?
When it comes to internet security, there are a few key things you need to know. Phishing and viruses are two of the biggest threats, so it's important to have reliable internet security software in place. But what exactly is phishing? And how can internet security software help protect you from it?
You can protect yourself from phishing schemes by installing and using Internet security software on your computer. This type of software is important for all users because it offers many layers of protection in one easy-to-use package.
Your security strategy should contain the following components to provide the most dependable protection:
Anti-spam software prevents your email account from being hacked by phishing and spam. Anti-spam software has learning abilities that allow it to learn which things are junk and which aren't over time, in addition to working with pre-defined denylists created by security researchers. So, while you should still be wary, you'll have some piece of mind knowing the software is also scanning for potential issues. When harmful emails get through your computer undetected, use anti-phishing protection and anti-spam software to safeguard yourself.
Since your cloud-based software is hosted in the Cloud, you receive unprecedented protection against malware. Security experts design anti-malware software to find even the most hidden malware. Anti-malware programs, like anti-spam software, are created by security researchers to detect even the most covert infections. Vendors continue to release updated versions that make the program smarter and better equipped to tackle new threats. You can defend yourself from viruses, worms, Trojans, bots and other types of malware with an anti-malware package.
If you install a firewall, anti-spam, and anti-malware package on your system, you can safeguard it from being hacked if you inadvertently click on any harmful link. They're important tools to have on your computers, working in tandem with common sense.
You may protect your devices against phishing and other malware threats by keeping them up to date on the newest technological advances using a security package from a renowned provider.
Most Popular Phishing Tools
Most phishing schemes use one or more tools to help them succeed. These tools are designed to collect information from unsuspecting users and can be very effective if used properly.
Some of the most common phishing tools include:
With a variety of features and advanced functionality, this modern phishing tool has the primary goal of gathering as much data about targeted individuals as possible. Here are some of the things that HiddenEye can do:
Capture all data regarding a potential target's physical location, Internet service provider (ISP), device type, operating system, and other information.
- Collect victims' social media profiles.
- Collect victim's login credentials and passwords for supported websites (supports over 75+ websites)
-Bypass 2FA (two-factor authentication)
- Capture video from the webcam of the victim.
-Create phishing pages for popular sites
GoPhish is a helpful phishing tool that can be used for training employees or stimulating engagements. This tool is easy to use and compatible with Linux, macOS, and Windows desktops. Additionally, it offers features such as creating and monitoring phishing campaigns, landing pages, sending profiles etc., which makes it ideal for businesses and penetration testers.
The SellPhish tool is a powerful open-source phishing tool that allows users to create customized templates for 18 popular sites such as Facebook, Google, Instagram, etc. An attacker may extract critical details like IDs and passwords with the aid of this tool.
BlackEye is one of the most popular phishing tools available on GitHub. It offers more than 30 web templates for well-known platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and many others. This tool can be used to create a phishing website in less than two minutes. Furthermore, it can also be used to perform a brute force attack and collect sensitive information from the target.
This man-in-the-middle attack framework is used to phish login credentials as well as session cookies, which might be used to circumvent 2nd factor authentication. It's intended to be quick and simple to use. When utilized by attackers, Evilginx2 provides them with the option of many diverse assaults, depending on what will work best against the target.
This attack aims to divert the user to a phoney login page, where the attacker can obtain their login information for various popular sites like Facebook and Google.
PhishX is another powerful open-source phishing tool that is available on GitHub. This tool allows you to create custom phishing pages for more than 40 websites. Apart from this, PhishX comes with some built-in features that allow you to clone a phishing page and edit it according to your needs. This tool can be used to collect sensitive information such as usernames and passwords.
Using a password manager and antivirus software is also essential to safeguard your online identity. It is now necessary to maintain numerous passwords on all websites. Hackers will attempt to exploit stolen credentials on other sites if a data breach occurs.
Password managers save time and effort by automatically filling in login forms, which is one of the most appealing aspects of them. Many password managers also include portable versions that may be saved to a USB drive, allowing you to take your passwords wherever you go. Although phishing might be difficult, you can lower your chances of being fooled by scammers by following the suggestions in this piece and using effective phishing protection tools.
Most Common Phishing FAQs
Who Can I Report Phishing Attacks To?
Phishing attacks can be reported to several organizations, depending on the specifics of the attack. For example, if you receive a phishing email that appears to be from your bank, you can forward the email to your bank's fraud department. If you are unsure as to who to report the phishing attack, you can also report it to the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), a global coalition against phishing. Reporting phishing attacks to the APWG helps create awareness of new phishing scams and can help prevent others from falling victim to them. You can also report phishing attacks to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). However, individual complaints are not generally entertained but your report can help them investigate phishing scams and take action against the scammers. To learn more about phishing and how to protect yourself from attacks, you can visit the APWG's website or the FTC's website.
What Should I Do If I Suspect That I've Been The Target Of A Phishing Scam?
What should I do if I think I've been phished
If you think you may have been phished, there are a few things you can do:-Contact the company or organization that you believe sent the phishing email. Ask if they sent the email and, if not, what steps you should take.
-Do not click on any links or reply to the email.
-Do not share any personal information (such as your bank account number or social security number). If you have already clicked on a link in a phishing email or given out personal information, act quickly to minimize the damage:
-Change any passwords that you may have given out. Choose different passwords for each account that are difficult to guess.
-If you gave out your credit card information, contact your credit card company and tell them that you may be a victim of fraud. They will usually put a hold on your account and issue you a new card.
-If you gave out your social security number, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to file a complaint. The FTC can help you deal with credit problems that result from identity theft. You can also report phishing emails to the FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint.
What Information Can Be Stolen By A Phishing Attack?
In a phishing attack, the attacker may try to steal your:
-Banking or financial information
-Credit card information
-Social Security number
-Personal information, such as your name or address
How Can Phishing Be Detected?
There are a few things that can help you detect phishing attempts:
1. Check the URL of the website you're on. Phishers will often create fake websites that look very similar to the real thing but with a slight change in the URL. If you're not sure if a website is legitimate, you can try typing the URL into a search engine to see if anyone else has reported it as a fake
2. Be wary of emails or other messages that ask you to click on a link or download an attachment. These could be attempts to install malware on your computer or steal your personal information.
3. Don't enter personal or financial information into a website unless you're sure it's legitimate.
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