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What Is Phishing and How to Safeguard Yourself from Such Campaigns?

Phishing has emerged as a widespread security threat in the digital age, with scammers employing fraudulent communication tactics to deceive individuals into divulging sensitive information such as passwords, credit card details, and personal data.

The third quarter of 2022 saw a record-breaking number of phishing attacks, with 1,270,883 such incidents reported to APWG, making it the worst quarter on record for phishing attacks.

These attacks aim to obtain valuable information that can be exploited for identity theft or financial fraud. The pervasiveness of online platforms and the widespread use of email and social media have made it easier for scammers to create convincing fake messages and websites that appear legitimate. Phishing attacks can take various forms, including email messages that are from a trustworthy source or a social media post that leads to a fake login page. As technology evolves, so do the methods used by scammers, making it difficult for individuals and organizations to keep up with the latest threats.

What Exactly Is Phishing?

Phishing is a type of cyber-attack that involves the use of fraudulent emails, text messages, or websites to deceive users into divulging sensitive information like passwords, credit card details, and personal information. The attacker often poses as a trusted entity such as a bank, an online store, or a social media network to persuade the recipient to share information. This information is then utilized for nefarious purposes such as identity theft, financial fraud, or dissemination of malware. With phishing attacks becoming more advanced and prevalent, individuals must be informed and be able to recognize these frauds.

Phishing Techniques Used by Attackers to Trick Individuals into Giving Away Sensitive Information

  • Email phishing is the most prevalent form that involves sending fake emails that appear to be from a trusted source to trick the recipient into giving away sensitive information or clicking on a malicious link.
  • Spear phishing is a more targeted approach that uses personal information gathered from social media or other sources to make the attack seem more legitimate.
  • SMS phishing operates in the same way but uses text messages rather than emails.
  • Clone phishing involves creating a fake copy of a legitimate email, with altered links or attachments that lead to malicious websites.
  • (Voice Phishing) Vishing uses phone calls to deceive individuals into disclosing personal information.
  • Website phishing entails creating a fake website that mimics a legitimate one, intending to trick users into providing their login credentials or personal information.

It is important to be aware of various phishing techniques and to be vigilant when receiving emails, text messages, or phone calls that ask for sensitive information.

The table below, from APWG, provides some interesting numbers on phishing attacks that occurred through the website and email phishing in Q3 of 2022.

July August September
Number of unique phishing Web sites (attacks) detected 425,112 430,141 415,630
Unique phishing email subjects 64,696 38,228 23,994
Number of brands targeted by phishing campaigns 621 612 637

Phishing Attacks Can Result in Several Risks, Including

  • Identity theft: Identity theft is a common consequence of phishing attacks that aim to obtain personal details like names, addresses, social security numbers, and financial information.
  • Financial fraud: Unauthorized access to your financial accounts, due to phishing attacks, can lead to unauthorized transactions or theft of your funds.
  • Spread of malware: Malicious software utilized in phishing attacks may infect your computer, providing attackers access to sensitive information or allowing them to exploit your computer for malicious objectives.
  • Loss of sensitive information: It can lead to loss of confidential data, including corporate secrets, intellectual property, or private customer information.
  • Damage to reputation: If confidential data is disclosed or utilized for malicious intentions, phishing attacks have the potential to harm the reputation of a company or an individual.
  • Loss of productivity: It can result in loss of productivity as employees spend time dealing with the consequences of a phishing attack, such as reporting the incident and restoring their accounts.
  • Compliance violations: Businesses that fall under data privacy regulations such as HIPAA, PCI-DSS, or others may face compliance violations due to phishing attacks.

Being aware of the possible risks and taking measures to safeguard yourself from phishing attacks is crucial. You can achieve this by staying up to date, exercising vigilance, and adhering to online security best practices.

Ways To Detect Phishing Emails

  • Validate the email address of the sender: Fake or manipulated sender addresses that appear authentic are commonly used in phishing emails.
  • Look for generic greetings: Some emails frequently use impersonal greetings like “Dear valuable client” instead of addressing you by name.
  • Look for misspelled words or poor grammar: Typos or grammatical errors can be found in phishing emails.
  • Check the urgency of the request: A sense of urgency is often created in phishing emails to prompt you to take immediate action.
  • Check for unusual attachments or requests for personal information: Such emails may ask you to download attachments or enter personal information through a link.
  • Check for suspicious links: Verify the link by hovering over it before clicking, as it may take you to a random phishing page instead of a legitimate site.
  • Watch out for emails that feel threatening or dangerous: Phishing emails may alert you to a compromised account or impending legal action.
  • Trust your instincts: If an email looks suspicious or makes you uncomfortable in any way, it’s best to delete it.

How To Prevent Phishing?

  • Keep software and security systems up to date: To protect against known threats, you should periodically update your computer’s security software.
  • Use strong, unique passwords: Establish a strong password using symbols, numbers, and letters combined for each account. Always enable two-factor authentication if it’s
  • Watch out for unexpected emails or communications: Avoid clicking links or opening attachments, especially if they request personally identifiable information, from emails or communications that you didn’t
  • Verify the sender’s legitimacy: If a financial institution or company sends you an email or message, don’t respond with sensitive information. Instead, call the institution or company directly to verify their request.
  • Look for signs of a phishing scam: Be wary of emails or texts that request personal information or contain links or attachments that seem suspicious. Phishing emails often include generic greetings, misspelled words, and a sense of urgency.
  • Utilize antivirus and anti-malware software: Use reliable anti-virus and anti-malware software to protect your computer against malware.
  • Educate yourself and others: Stay informed about the latest phishing tactics and educate yourself and others on how to recognize and avoid them.
  • Report phishing attempts: If you receive a suspicious email or message, report it to the appropriate authorities, such as your email provider, the company it claims to be from, or authorities that specialize in combating phishing.

Conclusion

Phishing is a major cybersecurity threat that has continued to evolve and become more sophisticated over time, making it challenging for individuals and organizations to keep up with the latest threats. It is important to be aware of various phishing techniques and be vigilant when receiving emails, text messages, or phone calls that ask for sensitive information.

eInfochips, a leading global provider of product engineering and semiconductor design services, has extensive cybersecurity capabilities to help organizations safeguard themselves from phishing attacks. Our services include vulnerability assessment, penetration testing, and security audit, which help identify weaknesses in a company’s systems and networks and mitigate the risk of attacks.

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