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How To Not Get Phished

Most people have access to something that may interest hackers. Their main objective is to steal customer data to pull out identity theft. Others target a company's intellectual data or even security information.

If a hacker lays his hand on your income data, they can even steal your tax refund or request unemployment benefits using your details.

Despite the extensive media coverage and training programs to create awareness about cybercrimes, phishing remains popular as ever. As much as most internet users have become more cautious, the attackers now apply some advanced strategies to lure in more victims. Read on to know how phishing takes place and how you can outsmart the hackers.

What Is Phishing?

It's a form of cyber-attack where the scammers use emails and texts to trick the recipient into giving out their confidential information. The hackers may also send in requests, for instance, from a bank or company asking you to download a particular file. They achieve this by creating a replica of reliable websites with fake URLs that seem somewhat legit.

When they manage to convince victims to click into the websites, they gain full access to the targeted accounts. They may even pass over your details to the real site to prevent you from suspecting any scams activity. So from your side, you will think that you logged into the right account directly.

It's the easiest form of cyber scam that you can fall for since most people don't have the time to scrutinize all the messages that get to their inbox. Phishing varies based on the nature of the target. Some common types of this cyber-attack include;

Spear Phishing

It's a highly targeted activity aimed at specific individuals. The scammers collect information from the internet to send very personalized emails that look legitimate.

Clone Phishing

The attackers hack and clone a valid email, then resends the lookalike with some malicious links or attachments.

Whaling Phishing

Criminals target prominent employees in a company like a CEO to trick them into availing highly sensitive data that they can use to commit fraud. They can even delude one to make some transfers into their criminal accounts.

While there are numerous anti-spam measures in place, a significant number of phishing emails still get to their recipients. They thus pose a considerable risk to a company's or personal security. The emails manage to bypass the filters due to the following reasons.

They Are Highly Targeted

The criminals send the spear and whaling-based mails to a small group of individuals. Thus the anti-phishing solutions can't filter them out.

They Seem Real

The hackers have significantly improved their tactics, and the emails sent look very legitimate. In the older days, criminals would send messages with some grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. Today, it's tough to distinguish between real company addresses from fake ones.

The Criminals Exploit Human Weaknesses

Phishers understand that most employees live with the fear of breaking the rules to please the superiors. It's also human nature to be very curious. As a result, they play their tricks around these vulnerabilities to lure people into acting quickly without proper thinking.

They Use Updated Information

The criminals reference trending events and news, for instance, Olympics, politics, Brexit, or tax seasons. The current information is usually in most people's minds making it easy to fake legitimacy and spark curiosity.

How To Avoid Phishing Scams

Here are various tips that you can use to amour yourself against these attacks.

Learn About Various Phishing Techniques

Remember that new cybercrime techniques come up every day, and you need to stay informed to avoid falling victim. The first defense against phishing is verifying whether the sender is who they claim to be.

Check the greetings and determine whether the sender addresses you by name or words like 'Sir' or 'client.' If you have a business relationship with a particular company, they can't send you generic greetings.

Also, look closely at the 'from' section to determine whether the email address matches the sender's name. Read the email closely, filter out some spelling mistakes on the company name, and look for some randomly added characters in the address.

You can also assess the text's tone to determine whether it overly convinces you to uptake a specific action. It's worth noting that most phishing emails will come from a company you often deal with, for example, your online store, credit card company, online payment, or social networking site. The text tells you a story to lure you into opening the attachment. In most cases, they try to suggest that they have noticed some suspicious login attempts in your accounts. You could also receive messages indicating that there is a problem with your payment method. They then include a fake invoice and request you to share some credentials or confirm personal details.

Others may even offer you a coupon code to purchase a free item from your online store, but they want you to use a particular link to make payments. Besides, you can get suggestions that your company qualifies for a government refund. Take caution to avoid falling for advanced phishing emails. Some hackers may even call you by name and use polished language that makes it hard to detect.

Verify The Websites

Ensure that you operate on a secure website by checking the URLs before submitting any sensitive information. Some pages start with 'http: //' while others have https://. The 'S' is critical since it signifies a secure site.

A secure page should also have a lock icon at the website bar. Click on the padlock to see the organization's name that applied for it, and if it doesn't match your sender, be suspicious. Additionally, you can type in the URL website in another search bar to investigate its final destination.

Invest In The Right Security Technology

Install security software in your devices to deal with any security threats. The tools run checks on the pages you visit to see whether they are associated with cybercrimes. It will then alert you in case of any malicious activity. Moreover, you can set up two-factor authentication, for example, a text code to verify usage. It ensures that nobody else can log into your account without your username or passwords.

Further, you can use firewalls to create a barrier between intruders and your computer. Ensure that you have both a network and a desktop firewall. The former is a type of hardware, while the latter is a kind of software. When used together, they make it harder for phishers and hackers to infiltrate your network or computer.

Alternatively, you can install antivirus software to safeguard against technologies that can take advantage of loopholes within your device. It scrutinizes all files that you access from the internet with your device, preventing any system damage.

Watch Out For Shortened Links

Link shortening tools have become popular among most brands since they make the URLs look cleaner. However, scammers now use this tactic to mask their actions with familiar strategies. Therefore place the cursor on every shortened link and verify the target destination before clicking. Also, avoid clicking on any embedded links but instead visit the page directly to verify the request.

Beware Of Popups

Mostly popups appear as a legitimate component of a website. However, they can easily capture your details and send it over to a different domain using iframe technology. Most reputable sites will not ask you to present any confidential information in a popup. Besides, they avail of an option where you block or allow them when necessary. Still, if you accidentally click on one, don't tap 'cancel'; you might end up on the hacker's site. Instead, click the 'x' element at the top window's section to close the tab.

Update Your Operating System And Software

Ensure that you are always using the latest version of your web browser and apply all the internet security upgrades as required. It protects you against vulnerability since most outdated systems create loopholes for hackers to infiltrate your network.

Educate Your Employees

If you operate in a highly data-sensitive industry, it would be wise to avail training courses to your staff members. Teach them how to identify any malicious emails so that they don't put your company at risk.

You can even send them some fake emails often to test their vulnerability. Always change the tactics as the scammers to make them more vigilant while dealing with such emails.

Think Before You Click On Anything

Be suspicious of any emails that you receive from banks or any other financial entities. You shouldn't click on links from random emails that you don't know where they lead. Again, don't open any shared email that you didn't expect to receive.

Be wary of urgent deadlines. If you see a message suggesting that you give your confidential details urgently, it should raise the alarm. No legit company will ask you to submit your details in an email.

Additionally, look out for alarming messages full of threats and potential consequences. Hackers use such information to create a sense of urgency. Further, avoid emails that promise financial rewards. The scammers may offer enormous discounts for an item you never purchased or even suggest that you have won a massive prize for a contest you didn't participate in.

Change Your Passwords Often

Avoid using the same password for different accounts. Also, come up with unique passwords and ensure that you change them frequently. Further, you can use a password manager to help you develop a robust one to keep your data safe.

Trust Your Instincts

If any email or text seems somewhat off, trust your instincts. The best thing you can do to protect yourself against phishing is by using good judgment. Most scams tend to divert you to a website fraudulently designed to look like your trusted source. When you receive messages concerning your finances or any other sensitive information, don't panic or make a rash decision. The hackers tend to pressure their targets to lure them into clicking attachments at their most vulnerable state. Again don't install anything from an unknown source.

Avoid Posting Your Private Details On Social Media

When hackers want to spear-phish you, they need to obtain most of your personal information to create a strategic plan. At times, your name and job titles may be enough to prove to a hacker that you are a great target. Hence do not put personal information publicly on social media platforms. Set your accounts privately, and don't go around posting every detail of your life.

Call The Sender

The hackers like to impersonate your boss, bank, or any other financial institution. If they send you emails requesting you to change your passwords, send money or documents, call the sender to confirm. Sometimes, the request may even come in in the form of a phone call. In this situation, pause and validate the number. You can also hang up and tell the caller that you wish to contact your service provider from their customer care line. Although it might sound like an emergency, don't panic, you are on the right path. Pause, take a few minutes, and verify the sender to protect your company or personal data.

Don't Use Public Networks.

Avoid email communications while using public wifi since, most often, they aren't encrypted. Hackers tend to take advantage of this, and they can quickly get access to your usernames, passwords, or financial information. Even worse, some creative criminals set up their free wifi to lure you in so they can sniff out your details. To be safe, always use your mobile hotspot and tethering functionalities and rely on a data connection while outside the office.


Cyber attackers are knowledgeable in developing new techniques, and once they get caught, they quickly move to the next. However, you don't have to live in fear of cyber-attacks, but you can manage them using the above-discussed points.

Still, if you get scammed, immediately change passwords in your finances, emails, and all other accounts. The sooner you can do this, the better you can stop the hackers. If you feel like your bank information is compromised, call them immediately and alert them. You can then use trusted software to eliminate the malware from your devices.

Read more at Woods LLP

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