What is Phishing?
Although you have most likely heard the term quite often, you may not be familiar with the prevalence of phishing, which has become one of the fastest growing crimes on the internet. What is phishing? In simple terms, it’s a scam employed by an individual attempting to persuade would-be victims into providing sensitive information. Phishing uses a combination of social engineering and technical subterfuge to lure the unsuspecting into financial ruin.
This exploit originates via email and typically requests account information, such as usernames or passwords, a situation that could easily lead to identity theft. According to the United States Federal Trade Commission, nearly 255,000 cases of identity theft were reported in 2003, most of them attributed to the crime of phishing.
Institutions victimized by phishing scams
Phishing is not only detrimental to the recipient, but the company who is being impersonated as well. Institutions, such as Comerica and Wells Fargo, and services like PayPal can certainly attest as their brand names have been used in various scams. Other common targets include Barclays Bank, once branded BarcPhish by the prominent security vendor McAfee, eBay and even smaller financial institutions such as LaSalle Bank and Sky Financial. Within a short time, the damage inflicted by phishers has made consumers very cautious of organizations that were once trusted. For this reason, business leaders and consumers alike are practicing awareness to prevent this crime.
Anti-phishing tactics to employ
Now that we’ve answered the question of what is phishing, it’s time to learn what can be done to prevent it. When you consider the fact that spam remains a huge problem, putting a complete halt to these fraudulent emails seems almost impossible. Several companies who have been targeted tend to focus more on educating consumers on how to observe the warning signs and detect the crime before it is seen to fruition. They go as far as explaining how a fraudulent message might appear when conducting an email search and comparing it to what the consumer should expect from the institution.
Because of the widespread exploitation, some have even made policies where they’ve eliminated email communications completely, relying on snail mail to communicate with customers. Other companies simply encourage customers not to disclose sensitive details, such as bank account numbers and passwords, in an email message.
In-house education on anti-phishing is important as well. Phishers rely on more than social engineering tactics, as they often deploy keystroke loggers and other malicious software to victimize unknowing employees. This is a factor that poses a threat in the home or office environment, something could easily lead to breaches of confidential corporate data.
Whether your inbox or company has been targeted or not, it is important to make yourself familiar with all the red flags that indicate phishing. Keep in mind that on the surface, most of these emails are well designed and look as if they are sent by legitimate companies. They’ll come bearing descriptions that sound official and logos to persuade you. Phishers even create websites that look just as good, if not better than the one they are impersonating.
So what is phishing? It’s a serious crime you certainly want to avoid. Some have suggested reporting phishing to the company that supposedly sent it to prove authenticity. Try to find the email address
of the company and make sure it is legitimate. The one thing you don’t want to do is provide your personal information or click a link that may send you to a rogue website.