Have you ever received an email from a friend or colleague asking for personal details? You must’ve, right? But what if they didn’t send the email but a hacker instead? Well, if this ever happened to you, then unfortunately, you became a victim of a phishing attack.
Keep reading to learn what is phishing, how it works, and ways to detect and prevent it. We’ll also discuss different types of phishing attacks.
What is phishing?
Phishing is sending fraudulent emails, messages, or making calls by impersonating an individual or company. Its goal is to obtain sensitive information like confidential data, bank details, login credentials, etc. Phishing attacks are also used to infect a system with malware by tricking recipients into clicking or downloading malicious links.
Common Indicators of a Phishing Email
Here we’re giving you not one but nine answers to a popular question—what is a common indicator of a phishing attempt. So, you must get alarmed if you notice any of these signs.
- Unusual Tone: An email sent from a familiar email address isn’t using the usual tone. For example, your boss has always addressed you using your last name, and suddenly it’s your first name.
- Suspicious Elements: Seeing grammar and spelling errors in a professional email indicates a phishing attack.
- Unmatching Domain Names: Suppose an email claims to be from Bank of America, but its email address doesn’t match the official domain name, then it’s a red flag.
- Threats or Sense of Urgency: Don’t fall for emails threatening you or urging you to take immediate action. They try tricking you into reading it hastily so that you miss detecting suspicious elements.
- Unrequested or Suspicious Attachments: If an email has attachments that you never asked from the recipient, then avoid clicking or downloading them before getting a confirmation over a call. Also, think twice before downloading files with extensions commonly associated with malware. These are .zip, .exe, .scr, etc.
- Atypical Requests: It could potentially be one of the types of phishing if an email is requesting something that isn’t a usual norm. It’s better not to follow any instructions before confirmation.
- Sparse Body Content: Phishers often send short emails to avoid raising suspicions like an unmatching tone.
- Big Baits: Enticing emails like a free vacation, winning a cash prize, heavy discounts, or selection for a job can be dangerous.
- Fake Landing Pages: Sometimes hackers redirect recipients to visit a genuine-looking corrupted website. Such websites request the submission of sensitive information like login credentials and bank details.
Types of Phishing Attacks?
Do you know phishing is what type of attack? It’s social engineering attack, a term for manipulating human weaknesses to obtain sensitive information or enter a protected system. Keep reading to know its common types.
In this, cybercriminals send emails by masquerading as trusted individuals or brands. Such emails prompt recipients to click or download a corrupted link or attachment.
Companies should use a free DMARC checker by EasyDMARC to know if someone is sending fraud or spam emails using their name.
HTTPS is short for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. It’s an authentication and security protocol that indicates a safe website. The letter ‘S’ in HTTPS stands for ‘Secure’; hence avoid visiting HTTP websites as they aren’t safe.
You can check the hyperlinked URL by hovering the cursor over it. The complete link can be seen at the bottom left corner of your screen.
Are you aware of what type of phishing attack targets a particular individual? Well, it’s spear phishing, an attack where threat actors covertly get an employee’s confidential information like designation and contact details.
Then hackers use that information to trick the victim into sharing the company’s crucial details. It can be averted if organizations train employees to read signs of a phishing email.
Vishing or voice phishing is when attackers call their targets impersonating a person you’re familiar with. This can be a friend, colleague, or family member. They typically create a sense of urgency and ask you to transfer money, share sensitive details, OTPs, or take any other action that benefits them.
You can prevent vishing attacks by being careful with calls from unknown phone numbers or locations. Generally, their timing also coincides with stressful events like tax month.
Smishing is short for SMS phishing, an attack similar to vishing. In smishing, bad actors use SMS (Short Message Service) to attempt fraud by imitating a known person.
Whale or CEO fraud
In whaling, malicious actors trick recipients into thinking that the email has come from their company’s CEO or any high-level executive. Such emails usually request confidential details like payroll information, financial details, or any important document.
When malicious actors use notifications on social media platforms to manipulate victims into visiting a corrupted link, it’s an angler phishing attack. They generally redirect you to websites or social media profiles promising a surprise gift, discount coupons, or similar baits.
Always check shortened links before clicking them to avoid these phishing types.
Attackers hijack DNS to manipulate users into visiting a fraudulent website. If you didn’t identify its illegitimacy, you might enter passwords or submit essential details.
Be attentive and notice suspicious elements like spelling and grammatical errors, unprofessional graphics, poor quality content, etc.
Cyberactors inject spiteful codes in web browser pop-ups that download malware on your system if you click the ‘allow’ button. Don’t fall for pop-ups prompting you to take quick action.
An evil twin is a rogue or fake wireless access point (WAP) that looks like a harmless hotspot. In this type of phishing, eavesdroppers fraudulently create these fake hotspots to gain sensitive data.
How to Prevent Phishing Attacks?
Now that you know what is spear phishing, email phishing, HTTPS phishing, etc., it’s time to move further and learn the ways to prevent them in the first place.
Anti-phishing tools scan all the incoming emails to filter spamming and phishing emails. It’s good to invest in a reputable anti-phishing program compatible with all devices.
Get into the habit of regularly rotating your passwords so that hackers can’t gain unrestricted and unlimited access. So, even if your accounts are compromised without your knowledge, password rotation will automatically log them out.
Never ignore updates, as they come with security patches to combat modern cyberattack techniques. If you don’t update your browser, applications, and software, you could be at risk of phishing attacks through vulnerabilities.
A firewall is a shield between your computer or network and hackers. It prevents unauthorized remote access so that threat actors can’t secretly take over your system.
Firewalls are incredibly helpful for people using old operating systems like Windows XP and Windows 7, as these are more prone to phishing attacks.
Use sender’s email authentication protocols
SPF, DKIM, and DMARC are email authentication protocols that validate if an email comes from the claimed sender only. The process works by confirming the origin of email domain ownership of MTAs or Message Transfer Agents.
EasyDMARC offers help with these solutions to catch spam and fraudulent emails sent in your company’s name.
Two factor authentication
2FA or two-factor authentication works by adding an extra layer of security to online accounts. So, after entering your usual login credentials, a second credential or OTP is sent to your registered mobile number or email id.
Apart from OTP, other main types of 2FA methods are biometric login or answering a security question.
The number of phishing attacks is rising perpetually as they’re quite profitable to hackers. Fortunately, some preventive measures can make it harder for them to succeed in gaining access. Businesses should use multi-factor authentication, firewall, and anti-phishing programs to safeguard all crucial data from the evil eyes of hackers. Also, make it a habit to rotate passwords and update your browser and programs regularly.