Phishing FAQs: What Are Some Of The Most Frequently Asked Questions About Phishing?
Some of the most frequently asked questions about phishing.
Table of Contents
- ✔️ What Is A Phishing Attack, And How It Starts?
- ✔️ What Is The Motive Behind A Phishing Attack?
- ✔️ What Are The Objectives Of Phishing?
- ✔️ How Does Phishing Happen?
- ✔️ Which Are The Three Essential Steps Of A Phishing Attack?
- ✔️ What Is A Phishing Site?
- ✔️ Is Phishing Illegal?
- ✔️ Why Is Phishing Dangerous?
- ✔️ What Can Phishing Do?
- ✔️ What Does Phishing Do To Your Computer?
- ✔️ How Do You Protect Against Phishing?
- ✔️ What Do You Do If You Suspect Phishing?
- ✔️ What Should I Do If I Have Responded To A Phishing Email?
- ✔️ How Can Phishing Be Prevented?
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Phishing is a type of cybercrime where attackers use emails to trick targeted users into sharing their personal or sensitive financial information. They generally do this by luring them into clicking malicious links or opening attachments into an email. Most of the times, these phishing emails are cleverly disguised and seem to be coming from a trusted source such as Income Tax department or a Bank or a well-known company such as Amazon, eBay etc. Hence, if users are not alert, they fail to notice that these emails contain malicious links and harmful attachments. Let’s look at some of the most frequently asked questions about phishing.
✔️ What Is A Phishing Attack, And How It Starts?
A phishing attack is one of the most prevalent and widely used methods by hackers that functions via e-mails, instant messages, or even phone calls. It uses social engineering technique to lure vulnerable users. These attacks are attempts by the adversaries to gain unauthorized access into the private details, or belongings of individuals or companies.
These attacks start just like genuine means of communication by legit companies or sources, and hence bypass the security checks of the targeted people. Usually, fraudulent e-mails and messages containing links to fake websites are used to lure innocent people and exploit them.
✔️ What Is The Motive Behind A Phishing Attack?
The primary purpose of a phishing attack is to steal the user’s private account information. The hackers use this information, to either commit crimes using their identity or steal money from their bank account. Hackers can even sell their private information in the grey market.
✔️ What Are The Objectives Of Phishing?
Phishing attacks are carried out for the following purposes:
- Stealing personal data, such as name, occupation, personal address, etc.
- Getting hold of people’s sensitive data such as bank details, social security numbers, etc. and use these to make purchases.
- To sell the stolen data at huge prices in the dark market.
- To make quick and easy money.
- Impersonating the user and conducting illegal operations.
- For inflicting malware into the system, and asking for ransom.
✔️ How Does Phishing Happen?
Every phishing scam starts with a phishing email and comes with call-to-action subject lines such as, “Your account has been compromised.”, “Your account is going to expire in 7 days if you don’t take action right now.” And “Unusual sign-in activity suspected, please click here to know more.” When unsuspecting users click these links or open the attachments, they are redirected to a page asking for their personal or credit card information.
Nowadays, hackers use several phishing techniques to fool people. These include various link manipulation techniques, covert redirection technique, and link shortening services like bit.ly to hide the original URL from the user. These function by directing the user to a malicious link, capturing all the information and finally, redirecting to the original URL.
✔️ Which Are The Three Essential Steps Of A Phishing Attack?
Every phishing attack carried out by hackers consists broadly of 3 main steps, which include
Step 1) Bait
The first step in any phishing attack comes simply in the form of an email message that is cleverly disguised to mimic a trusted source. Mostly, these email messages are sent to unsuspecting users who lack security awareness.
Step 2) Hook
For massive scale attacks, hackers put the bait first, observe your activities, and then finally, go for the catch. The scale and success of the attack depend on the amount of information gathered.
Step 3) Catch
This is the final step, where they craft a well-disguised email that will redirect to a fake website, and collect all your sensitive information.
✔️ What Is A Phishing Site?
A phishing website is a fake website created by hackers to resemble a trusted site which a person visits regularly. The cleverly crafted design, along with the presence of original logos make it hard for users to suspect anything amiss. Once a user clicks a link from the phishing email, they are redirected to these fake websites. Here, they are required to enter personal bank account and credit card information, social media details, and other personal information.
These fake websites are created only to dupe unsuspecting users and make them believe that they are sharing all their information on a legitimate site. But for aware users, there are many ways to identify whether the website is fake. Primarily, one can check if the website is https-enabled. All legitimate sites that involve transacting important information are secured and use an SSL certificate to ensure that all details entered by the user are encrypted and secure.
✔️ Is Phishing Illegal?
Yes, phishing is undoubtedly illegal because hackers try to obtain your personal information without your authorization, and use it for unlawful purposes. This information is used to commit fraud, and hence, phishing is considered to be a crime and an illegal activity.
While penalties for individuals involved in phishing vary according to countries and types of crime, a hacker can be sentenced up to 5 years jail term for felony convictions.
✔️ Why Is Phishing Dangerous?
Phishing is dangerous for anyone who is even remotely touched by technology because it puts them under the risk of being monitored and exploited. Although significant attacks are carried out on companies, phishing attacks don’t have any particular target list, leaving every technology user exposed to the risk. These attacks typically take advantage of a person’s psychological drawbacks and use them to the benefit of the attackers.
These attackers impersonate legitimate companies or organizations and send emails to people pretending as though there is an absolute emergency. Naturally, a vulnerable user instantly falls for these last-minute notices and without giving much thought into it, proceeds to give out his vital sensitive data. These attacks are hazardous as they not only put one’s identity at risk but also their savings and sensitive data, which once exploited, can sabotage their personal lives forever.
✔️ What Can Phishing Do?
Phishing attacks are carried out to rob an individual or an organization of their private data. Hence they possess the power to do either or all of the following
Stealing the identity: By using their name and credentials, hackers can impersonate the victim anywhere in the world. They might sell their data to buyers in the dark market, who might use the details for similar purposes driven by ulterior motives.
Siphoning off funds from the bank accounts of victims: Once into their bank account, they can rob victims of all their savings and money, leaving them with little or no options to undo the damage.
✔️ What Does Phishing Do To Your Computer?
If a phishing attack isn’t targeted at extracting personal data of users via fraudulent websites, then it is undoubtedly aimed at installing malware into the computer system of the user. These are some of the obvious implications of a successful phishing attack installing malware
- Loss of essential system elements.
- Disabling of the Operating System.
- Server failure and a massive increase in spam traffic, which ultimately cripples a company’s network.
- Deletion of data in the Flash BIOS that disables system reboots.
- Drive failure for frequently used computers.
- Loss of valuable information making years worth of hard work, disappear into thin air.
✔️ What Are Some Examples Of Phishing?
People who fall prey to phishing attacks are the ones who don’t have adequate knowledge about the malicious intentions of the adversaries, or who lack anti-phishing training techniques. Hackers use various techniques in phishing, but some of the common examples are
Brand Phishing – In this phishing technique, an unsuspecting user receives an email that imitates a trusted brand and gathers immediate attention from the user through messages like,
“Your account will expire in a week, please click here to activate it immediately.”
Impersonation Emails – Emails are received by targeted organizations from attackers posing as job applicants containing links to resumes, which are malicious.
Angry Customer – E-companies receive complaint emails from attackers impersonating as angry customers who claim to be wrongly billed and ask for a refund. When such emails are opened, and attached bills are clicked, the user gets redirected to a malicious site, putting all the sensitive information of the company at grave risk.
✔️ How Do You Protect Against Phishing?
Phishing attacks are on a rising spree and have increased tremendously in the past couple of years. Protecting oneself from these scams becomes necessary for every individual or organization, as the world embraces new technological advancements that make it even easier for attackers to target them. Here is how you can protect yourself against phishing
- Since e-mails are the primary means of executing phishing scams, it is imperative to be wise on the web. Never open links attached to emails sent from questionable sources.
- Analyze links from suspicious emails that make it to your inbox. Short URLs scream out to you of fraudulent contents within them.
- Fraudulent e-mails often impersonate reputed organizations and even use language and logos that appear to represent the source they imitate. However, there are minor errors in these emails which go unnoticed by an unsuspecting mind most of the times. So when an email pops up in your inbox out of the blue and appears to be compelling, consider re-reading it for errors and authenticity.
- Make sure never to enter any of your details such as name, bank or card details, etc. in any link that comes attached to a mail.
✔️ What Do You Do If You Suspect Phishing?
Cybersecurity experts recommend users to treat every email they receive as a phishing email so that they are extra careful about all the links and attachments inside the email. At any point in time, when you suspect an email, never reveal your personal information, click any links or open attachments in the email.
Make sure to check the accuracy of the e-mail by hovering over the e-mail links to check if the URL is real and original. Compare the email template with an actual email that you have received previously from the trusted source. If you see anything fishy, then it is better to ignore the message or contact the trusted source directly through a phone call or an email to inquire about the issue.
✔️ What Should I Do If I Have Responded To A Phishing Email?
It is quite common to fall for an email scam as the e-mail could have been cleverly disguised to mimic a trusted source. In the hurry of things, you would have given your personal information without a second thought. There are many instances where people have revealed their passwords, credit card information, along with all their data, etc.
However, to err is to be human. If you notice that you have been scammed by a phishing email and you have accidentally shared your personal information, you should not panic and need to do the following
- Make sure to scan your computer for malware and any other malicious software installed recently.
- Change your passwords for your email accounts, bank accounts, social media accounts, and any other account which you think may reveal sensitive information.
- If you are working in a company, then immediately contact the server administrator, who can then inform other employees about the issue, thereby preventing further cybersecurity complications for the company. It also helps the server administrator to review their security posture.
- Contact your credit card companies and notify them about the fraud. You can put in a request to get your cards blocked.
✔️ How Can Phishing Be Prevented?
Ancient wisdom states prevention is better than cure, and it is rightly so. Knowing and acknowledging the harm that a phishing attack might have and the permanent loss caused after that, it is wiser to be prepared to deal with a prospective phishing attack by adversaries.
So, here is a list of preventive measures that can assure at least some level of protection from the multitude of attacks that target users every day
- Conducting appropriate training for employees at the workplace to make them well-versed with the many new techniques attackers use to get into their computer systems. This will help them to be better informed and updated about the latest threats, along with preparing them on how to tackle these threats.
- Ensuring a minimum level of cautiousness from your end so that you think before reacting to any email that requests for your details.
- Having a web filter incorporated that is designed to auto delete mails from malicious or dubious sources.
- Having the latest versions of antivirus updated on your system with all patches released, so that you don’t remain vulnerable because of some loophole in the system.
- Installing spam filters that don’t let spam emails reach your inbox.
- Blocking access to questionable websites for all employees in the network. Casual browsing of the web causes more trouble than we can fathom.
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