As phishing attacks increase in frequency, it is essential to understand how they operate. This guidance provides technical, process, and people-based mitigations that can make it more difficult for criminals to succeed.
It is a good cybersecurity best practice to be wary of any link provided through email or other messaging services. In addition, any message that uses unusual spelling or language should raise suspicions.
What is Phishing?
Phishing is a cyberattack that preys on people or organizations and attempts to deceive them into disclosing private information. As to phishing definition, attackers use various techniques, including social engineering.
Cybercriminals want access to your personal and business information. They use this data to steal account passwords, financial details, and system credentials. They also target businesses to obtain customer data, proprietary product secrets, and other valuable information. In the worst case, phishing attacks result in malware infections, ransomware, and data loss.
Email, SMS, and social media are popular methods for phishing attacks. Cybercriminals gather personal and professional information about victims from public sources like social networks, online profiles, and business directory listings to create a believable message.
Attackers send messages that contain malicious file attachments or links to fake websites. Once a victim clicks the link, the attacker’s website is displayed, and users are persuaded to authenticate on a spoofed login page that sends credentials to the attacker.
Employees must be trained in the latest cybersecurity threats to prevent phishing attacks. Training includes phishing simulations replicating real-world scenarios to give employees experience with an attack. In addition, implementing two-factor authentication and keeping software up to date helps protect against phishing.
Despite being the oldest attack, phishing still comprises many of the world’s yearly devastating data breaches. Cybercriminals make it look like emails come from a trusted source, such as Amazon or your bank. They can also use link manipulation to hide malicious links and direct victims to impostor websites where they’re persuaded to enter their password or other sensitive information.
Before attacking, a criminal performs extensive research to determine who they want to impersonate. This research includes checking public records, social media, and other online sources. They then choose a name and contact info to use as the basis for their attack.
Often, attackers pose as employees or officials with your company. They send emails asking for details like your address, the last four digits of your social security number, or other private information the company already has or is required to have.
More advanced phishing attacks may include impersonating your IT department or a well-known brand. They could also pretend to be a government body, which would be particularly effective given the recent tragedies that have made people more fearful. They may urge you to act urgently and provide personal information, such as transferring funds, resolving login issues, or downloading malware.
Cybercriminals use urgency to trick you into clicking an unknown link or attachment. These malicious files can install malware on your device or direct you to a fake website to steal your personal and financial information.
Phishing attackers often ask you to provide information like your account password, credit card number, or Social Security number. Identity theft and other types of fraud exploit this kind of personal information.
In addition, phishing attackers may impersonate your employer or a business partner to gain access to corporate systems and networks. Attackers can then use these tools to gain unauthorized access to your device, infect it with ransomware or malware and reveal sensitive information.
These threats are not limited to the workplace but can occur from your mobile devices while working remotely during a pandemic. As a result, organizations must train employees on cybersecurity best practices.
Using strong authentication is also a best practice to help prevent phishing attacks. Ensure that your email and banking accounts require more necessary verification to access, such as a one-time code texted to your phone or a password that requires upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Additionally, limit the amount of information you share on social media to avoid compromising your online privacy.
Cybercriminals use phishing to steal your identity, passwords, and financial account information. They create email messages that appear to come from a trusted source or company, such as your bank, credit card company, or mortgage lender, and ask you to click on a link or open an attachment. These attachments often install malware on your computer or direct you to a fake website asking you to enter personal information like usernames and passwords, banking PINs, or credit card numbers.
Phishing is one of the most successful and inexpensive methods for cybercriminals to commit fraud. This popularity is due to the availability of mass emailing tools, illegitimate email lists, and cheap mass-production printing that allows scammers to produce well-crafted emails and other communications.
To make the phishing attack look authentic, attackers may include branding elements and logos from actual organizations, use inconsistencies like a missing word or a misspelling in the message text, or add attention-grabbing titles like “You won’t believe this!” or “This is too good to be true.”
An example is a phishing email sent to a marketing department employee that appears to be a request from the company’s CEO or HR manager asking for the latest project invoices. The email text, style, and included logo closely match the organization’s standard template. Clicking on the link redirects the employee to a spoofed version of the company’s website, where they are tricked into divulging confidential information.