What is a Phishing Attack
We’ve all heard of phishing scams, but what do they entail? As with any fraud, a phishing attack is designed so that you will willingly share sensitive information the attacker might need to exploit your systems. This information could be your password, credit card number, or other important personal data such as bank account details. There are several ways that these attacks can happen, often masquerading as an innocent email from a trusted source. In addition, phishing attacks are generally performed against users that are not security-savvy and might not consider themselves a target.
What is a phishing attack?
Phishing is a social engineering attack disguised as a trustworthy entity through electronic communication. Typically, this means sending an email that appears to be from your bank, PayPal, eBay, or even the IRS. The “phisher” sends thousands of these emails, hoping many of them are successful in reaching potential victims. The attacker will typically try to get you to click on a link or open an attachment in the email, which takes you to a fraudulent website that mimics the real thing, prompting you to enter your password and other sensitive information. Once this happens, identity theft may occur, and the attacker can access your financial information and accounts.
Examples of common phishing attacks
The following are just a few of the numerous phishing attacks. An attacker will often use some version of these tactics to get information from users, so you must know how to detect them and protect yourself.
1.) Fake bank web pages: These phishing sites will have a similar layout to the legitimate site. However, there are differences such as the language, the structure of information, and graphics. You should always carefully check the URL for typos and be sure to never enter any of your sensitive information on these pages. If you are ever unsure, contact your bank to confirm the website.
2.) Fake wire transfer emails: These emails claim that there has been an attempt to access your account and that you should click on the link to review the activity yourself. Many messages appear similar to those from banks and are forwarded from email addresses that look believable. These scams are not as common anymore because they were relatively easy for victims to recognize, but they could still happen.
The tactics used by phishers to trick you into handing over your information can be simple and deceptive, or they can be very sophisticated. They all rely on the victim not taking the time to double-check and make sure the message is legitimate. The following are some examples of how phishing attacks might happen:
1. Spoofed email addresses: A spoofed email address is when the email address’s name is changed. Many tools allow you to see if an email has a phishing link; however, the best defense against this is to be cautious and not click on any attachments or links in emails you do not trust.
2. Phishing pages: Phishers are always coming up with new ways to trick users into giving up sensitive information. For example, those who create phishing pages will often use images from an actual login page to make their spoof page look legitimate. They can also create a page that looks like the real thing but is hosted on a completely different website. Therefore, you should never click any links in emails or messages you receive. Instead, open your web browser and manually type the URL of the site you are visiting.
3. Spear phishing: A phishing attack can be directed at a specific group of people, like people who bank at a particular institution or use a specific software program. The term “spear phishing” refers to when a hacker uses information such as an email address, password, or other personal information to target you with some attack. For example, spammers often try to get you to fall for a spear phishing attack using an email that looks like it’s from PayPal and asks you to confirm your account information. This can include things such as a bank account number or credit card number, which could put your security at risk.
How to protect yourself against phishing attacks?
The best protection against phishing attacks is simply awareness. Knowing how the attacks work can help you avoid being scammed. Here are some things you should do:
1. Use a two-factor or multi-factor authentication system: If you receive an email asking you to do something on your account, such as log in to your PayPal account, it is likely a phishing attack. There are two ways people use two-factor (2FA) or multi-factor (MFA) authentication systems. When logging in, the most common way is to type a code from the second device into the website. This way, if someone has opened the page on their computer and copied all of your username and password information, they will not be able to use it.
2. Be careful if you receive attachments from others — their files may contain viruses or malware. If you ever experience a problem with an extension, scan the file for viruses before opening it.
3. Always double-check any email or message that uses words like “verify,” “received,” and “confirm”. If you see these words within an email, do not click on them because this could possibly be a phishing site that will try to steal your information.
Phishing protection from NGEN
NGEN provides cybersecurity tools to protect users against phishing attempts, an essential layer of protection against malicious software and phishing sites. Phishing protection looks at all links in emails and messages you receive and then matches them against a database of known phishing websites. If the link is found in the database, it is blocked. The process is efficient and works without any user input — which means you don’t have to worry about making the wrong choices when you click on a link.
Phishing attacks are deceptive and can be very sophisticated. They rely on you not taking the time to check the message against a blocklist of known spam. To avoid a phishing attack, contact NGEN to learn about our complete protection options.