The 21st century continues to experience a boom of innovative technologies, and it is perhaps the emergence of the Internet that has fundamentally changed our daily lives. The World Wide Web offers an endless flow of information and unprecedented levels of connectivity, but cybercrime remains a constant threat, often with just a click of a mouse.
We all know that viruses and malware exist, but what is “phishing”? You may already know this, or unfortunately you may have unwittingly fallen prey to it. Phishing is just a malicious trick by which attackers try to gain access to personal and financial information of a computer user.
Perpetrators pretend to be legitimate businesses, institutions and services in order to deceive their victims and convince them to disclose confidential information such as login details and passwords. Once deployed, a user account – online or offline – can be quickly compromised, resulting in significant financial loss and identity theft.
Phishing attacks are often masked as seemingly harmless emails that pretend to come from a trusted source or person such as a bank. Typically, an email contains a message asking for confidential information that will quickly resolve any form of fraud. An email may also ask a user to click on a click that will take them to a fictitious website.
Users may be asked to log into their email or bank account and/or provide data, names, addresses and other personal information, among other forms of confidential information. Of course, once received, the sender will try to take advantage of the recipient’s trust, as most fraudsters seek to withdraw money from bank accounts and make online purchases. In addition, a malicious file can be attached to a user’s computer in order to penetrate or even prevent.
Phishing, however, is not limited to suspicious emails, but can take many other discrete forms, including fake websites, phone calls (known as “phishing”) and text messages (known as “SMS phishing”). While the phishing threat cannot be eliminated, today’s Internet users can take effective preventative measures to protect their personal and financial information.
A good dose of vigilance and mistrust can help avoid pitfalls. If an email offer sounds too good to be true, it is probably true. If the name, body – or just something – seems strange to you, think for a minute before you click. If the claim comes from a carrier, such as a bank, contact the bank using its official contact information so that it can confirm or deny the claim.