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What is a Phishing Attack?

Part of Security7's Social Engineering Attack Guide

What is Phishing?

Phishing is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information or data, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

Typically carried out by email spoofing, instant messaging, and text messaging, phishing often directs users to enter personal information at a fake website which matches the look and feel of the legitimate site.

Phishing is an example of social engineering techniques used to deceive users. Users are lured by communications purporting to be from trusted parties such as social web sites, auction sites, banks, colleagues/executives, online payment processors or IT administrators.

Attempts to deal with phishing incidents include legislation, user training, public awareness, and technical security measures (the latter being due to phishing attacks frequently exploiting weaknesses in current web security).

How to Stop a Phishing Attack:

Slow Down and Control Your Emotions

Remember the attacker is trying to manipulate your emotions into making a quick reaction. The more time you take to think about the situation the more likely you’ll start to realize something’s up.

We might be animals when it comes to our emotions, but we’re also brilliant. By slowing down, our rational brain allows us to overcome our feelings.

Think About What You're Reading, Seeing or Hearing

The more time you give yourself for rational thought, the better off you are when it comes to seeing through the attacker’s ruse.

Look for things like strange word choices or misspellings. Look for visual clues like off-brand graphics (if it comes from someplace like your bank or a store you frequent).

You’re more astute than you might give yourself credit for. If something seems off, it probably is.

Check to See Who Sent the Message

Email masking is incredibly prominent in today’s world. Most email clients format the sender address so that it’s easier to discern who it’s from. The problem is attackers leverage this.

If you’ve got the feeling the message you’re reading isn’t on the level check to see who sent it. If the name is familiar, but the email address isn’t there’s a good chance you’re experiencing a social engineering attack.

Don't Follow Blind Links

 Links are easy to hide, just like email addresses. If you can’t discern where a web-link is going to send you don’t click on it.

Always make sure to hover or right-click on an email link (whatever your email client is set up for) to see where it might send you.

Be Wary of Attachments

If you’ve gone through the steps mentioned above, you probably know what I’m going to say here. Don’t download attachments from people you don’t know.

Sometimes it’s a bad idea to download attachments from people that you do. Be on the lookout for e-mail attachments that appear to be Microsoft Word or Excel files. They might contain pretty nasty surprises.

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