By posing as a reputable sender, phishing emails aim to get your personal information, such as account credentials or other sensitive information. For instance, they may pose as a friend, a business you do business with or even a nonprofit you support.

Yes, you might very well be a victim of phishing. There are certain ways to find out whether you are being phished or not. Phishing has become very common due to the lack of security and the diversity of hackers across the internet.

This article will attempt to explain the nature of phishing scams. Furthermore, the methods of preventing such phishing scams as well as the possible consequences of being phished will be discussed. 

What Exactly Is Phishing?

Hackers employ phishing, as this refers to a form of social engineering, to acquire user information, including login information and credit card details. It can happen when an attacker poses as a trustworthy entity in order to trick a target into opening an email and clicking a link. 

The victim is subsequently tricked into providing their login details or financial data, which is then transmitted to the hacker.

Phishing is a simple yet efficient assault tactic that may provide a plethora of personal, financial, and organizational information for its perpetrators. 

The objective and exact mechanics of the assault might vary, but they are typically based on obtaining the victim’s personal information or convincing them to install malicious software that will cause damage to their device.

Phishing is not just common, but perhaps the most pervasive and destructive cybersecurity threat confronting businesses today.

What Are The Ways To Identify Phishing?

Scammers attempt to steal your credentials, account numbers, and Social Security numbers by email or text message. If they have this information, they may gain access to your bank accounts, and other accounts. 

Or, they may sell your data to more cyber criminals. Every day, millions of such phishing assaults are launched, and they are frequently effective.

Scammers frequently adapt their techniques to stay up with the most recent news or trends, however, the following are some prevalent phishing email and text message techniques:

Typically, phishing emails and SMS messages use a pretext (a pre-meditated backstory of sorts) to get you to click on a link or download an attachment. You may get an unusual text message or email that appears to be from a bank, credit card firm, or utility provider. 

Or it may be via a digital payment website or application. The communication might have been sent by a hacker. Following are the common ways to identify such phishing scams:

  • Say they’ve observed unusual login attempts or suspicious behavior — they haven’t.
  • Claim that there is an issue with the account or payment information – there isn’t one.
  • Suppose you need to validate certain financial or personal data – you don’t need this information for this porpose.
  • Include a bill you don’t recognize – it’s bogus.
  • The desire is that you click on a payment link, but the link contains a virus.
  • Claiming you’re qualified for a government rebate which is fraudalent.
  • Claiming that an urgent matter requires your immediate attention.
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Your mobile device probably does not possess the same security measures as your business laptop or desktop PC. Therefore, it is crucial that you, the end consumer, do all possible to defend yourself from cyber dangers. 

Phishing often begins with an unwary victim receiving an SMS, email, or in-app contact. With an attractive call to action, the message is designed to increase user engagement. 

Perhaps the possibility to win a brand-new iPhone, a certificate for a free vacation, or, more simply, access to a service such as social media, bank accounts, or work email.

In order to obtain personal data from the victim, an attacker would frequently send them to a website that appears authentic in order for them to submit their information. 

This information might be used instantly to connect to the service through the official website, or it could be captured and sold just on the Dark Web.

If you’ve been phished, the assault was likely delivered through one of the following ways:

  • Text messages (smishing)
  • Whatsapp
  • Personal email
  • Corporate email
  • Generic phishing emails not specific to any one person
  • Highly customized and personal email (spear phishing)
  • Targeted email to CEO’s and other executive level individuals (whaling)
  • Social networking postings and private communications

What Is An Email-Based Phishing Scam?

Email phishing is indeed a game of numbers. Even if just a tiny number of receivers fall for the ruse, an attacker who sends thousands of fake communications can get considerable information and quantities of money.

As stated in the preceding section, attackers employ several methods to boost their success rates. First, they are going to take considerable measures to create phishing communications that appear to originate from a legitimate firm. 

Below are some examples of phishing emails. Notice that the first screenshot has:

  1. Urgent call to action that immediately can put an unsuspecting victim into a nervous and rash state
  2. Again, an urgent message all in caps and with an exclamation mark.
  3. & 4. Notice that there 2 web links. These probably bring you to the same place. In this case, it’s a fake login page cloned from the legitimate page. Once the victim inputs their account credentials into the fake login page, they are sent to the attacker.

In this screenshot you will see several indicators of a phish. You can see that the “Threat” is that a feature will be turned off, in this case it’s probably the access to the email account or a security feature. Phishing emails will commonly have English grammar mistakes, as indicated in this screenshots. Generic phishing emails will also never address the user by their name.

A generic greeting like, “Dear sir,” “Dear user,” or “Hello,” are used frequently. Now with spear phishing or whaling, that apply. Those are more targeted attacks in which the attacker will research the victims and their background.

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Using the same language, fonts, logos, and signatures lends legitimacy to the messaging. In addition, hackers will typically strive to induce a feeling of urgency in their targets. 

As previously demonstrated, an email might threaten account expiry and set a countdown for the receiver. This type of pressure encourages the consumer to be less careful and much more prone to making mistakes.

Finally, links inside communications mimic their authentic equivalents but often include misspelled domain names or additional subdomains. For example, URL myuniversity.edu/renewal was modified to myuniversity.edurenewal.com

The resemblances between the two domains give the sense of a secure connection, reducing the recipient’s awareness of an attack. If a victim were to quickly read the email details if they were in a hurry, they would be none the wiser to this sneaky tactic.

What Is Targeted Phishing?

Unlike random program users, spear phishing attacks a specific individual or organization. It is an advanced kind of phishing that needs a specialized understanding of an organization, especially its hierarchy.

An assault could unfold as follows:

  • A criminal examines the identities of marketing department personnel and acquires access to the most recent project bills.
  • Assuming the identity of the marketing director, an attacker sends an email to the department’s project manager (PM) with the subject line, “Updated invoice of Q3 campaigns.” Text, format, and logo are identical to the organization’s normal email template.
  • A hyperlink in the email leads to a password-protected official memo that is, in reality, a forgery of a stolen invoice.
  • The PM must log in in order to access the paper. The attacker obtains complete access to critical portions of the organization’s network after stealing his credentials.
  • Spear phishing is indeed an efficient way for conducting the initial phase of an APT by supplying an attacker with genuine login credentials.

What Are The Methods To Stop Phishing?

Protection against phishing attacks needs actions from both individuals and businesses. 

User attentiveness is essential. Typically, malicious communication has tiny errors that reveal its genuine identity.  Additionally, users should consider why they are obtaining such an email. Enterprises may take a variety of precautions against phishing or spear phishing attacks:

1. Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) provides is a very effective way for defending against phishing attempts since it offers an additional layer of verification when accessing sensitive apps. 

2FA requires users to have two things: anything they know, like a password or user name, and a device they have, like a smartphone. Even if an employee’s credentials are hacked, 2FA prohibits them from being used to obtain admission since they are inadequate on their own.

2. Password Management Rules 

In addition to utilizing two-factor authentication, enterprises should implement stringent password management rules. For instance, workers should be obliged to update their passwords periodically and should not be permitted to use a password across several applications.

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By enforcing security behaviors, such as avoiding clicking on outside email links that you have not requested can reduce the risk of phishing. Cyber security user awareness training also help greatly reduce the potential for phishing attempts.

2. Verify

If you haven’t requested a link in an email, offer, or file then don’t respond to the email in any way.

DON’T:

  1. Downloading or opening the attached file.
  2. Interacting with any clickable link in the email.
  3. Replying to the email or calling/texting any phone number listed in the email.
  4. Forward the email to other users to “show” them.

DO:

  1. Pay attention to grammar mistakes (spelling, punctuation, appreciation, etc.).
  2. Hover over any clickable links to view the actual URL (lower left hand of email window).
  3. Report the email as spam or phishing to your security/network administrators or email provider (if it is a personal email box).
  4. Blacklist or block the email address where the phish came from.
  5. Keep yourself current on security news and cyber awareness techniques to mitigate as many cyber threats as you can.

What Are The Indicators To Watch For?

If you’ve been phished and provided your data, there are indicators that might help you determine whether you fell for the scam. 

Because phishing attempts vary and are sometimes coupled with other dangers, such as a method for spreading malware, the signs can be rather diverse. 

Hopefully, you will be able to identify phishing attempts before you provide sensitive information. Look for:

  • Messages, emails, and social media postings that have abbreviated URLs are suspect.
  • Websites requiring login credentials
  • Suspicious emails with odd language/verbiage
  • Websites with questionable, duplicate, or shortened URL’s (bitly, shorturl, etc.)
  • Identity fraud
  • Unfamiliar transactions
  • Unlockable accounts
  • Unprompted requests for password reset
  • Email spam coming from your account to other contacts mailboxes

What Should You Do If You Have Been Phished?

Now that you have been phished you can adopt different measures. Change the passwords for all compromised accounts, as well as any accounts that have the same or identical credentials as those hacked accounts.

If you put your credit card details on a fraudulent website, you should deactivate your card. To prevent sending phishing URLs to your contact lists, you can change your password, implement 2FA, and open a security helpdesk ticket with your email provider to resolve the phishing/spam.

Conclusion

It can be conclusively said that one must be on the lookout for identity theft alerts, monitor email accounts for signs of phishing, and if a compromise takes place then perform the appropriate measures.

The optimal treatment for phishing is prevention. Keep yourself secure against phishing. Scan your computer for viruses, become educated on the phishing threats and indicators, secure you account access, and never click on a link that you are unsure of.