- Globally, cybercriminals send about 3.4 billion phishing emails every day, with an estimated 33 million people expected to fall prey to these attacks in 2023 alone.
- The 5 most common types of phishing attacks are malicious emails, spear phishing, whaling, smishing and vishing, and angler phishing.
- To protect your online identity from phishing attacks, don’t respond to emails with links, provide information to encrypted websites only, secure your browser, change your account and Wi-Fi passwords regularly, and install anti-phishing tools and add-ons.
- Investing in a data security platform can help organizations detect and mitigate potential phishing attacks on auto-pilot.
As technology is evolving, cybercriminals are learning new ways to retrieve information from people online. The most prominent is phishing, which is a social engineering method that allows hackers to access users’ personal data through emails sent from sources that look authentic but are actually not. If you end up giving up your information to the hacker, you can’t possibly know what they will do with it. That’s why it’s important to learn how to protect your online identity.
Globally, cybercriminals send about 3.4 billion phishing emails every day. According to an estimation, 33 million people are expected to fall prey to these attacks in 2023 alone. Phishing emails usually target employees to trick untrained ones into giving up the company’s sensitive information, committing a significant security breach.
Whether you’re employed or not, you’ll likely come across a phishing attack at some point in your life. This guide will help you learn what a phishing attack looks like, the different types, and effective prevention methods. Let’s dive in!
5 Most Common Types of Phishing Attacks
Cybercriminals know numerous tricks to fool people into giving up their personal or financial information. They primarily send phishing emails with fake links or attachments. When users click on them, they are directed to a malicious website, handing over their data to the hacker all along.
Emails are just one example of phishing attacks. Scammers use many techniques tailored to manipulate users with different backgrounds and vulnerabilities. Let’s discuss them in detail.
Phishing emails look like they are sent from a reputable organization, but they are actually from an unregistered, fake domain. The hacker registers a fraudulent domain similar to the victim’s company to trick them. For instance, they may use “rn” instead of “m” or “cl” to mimic “d” in the domain name.
In other situations, they may create a new domain legally with the company’s exact name in the URL. For example, they may send an email from “[email protected]” to make the recipient believe it’s a legitimate message from Google.
These emails look almost authentic, so preventing them can be challenging. To protect your online identity, you should not respond to emails asking you to click a specific link or download a file.
Spear phishing also involves malicious emails, which seem more convincing than the standard ones. It’s much more targeted to a person or a specific group of people. The cybercriminal already has some information about the victim, including their name, job title, job role, and company.
These emails address the recipient by name or job role and ask to make an urgent bank transfer on the company’s behalf. Spear phishing is more targeted toward retrieving financial information from the victim.
To add a realistic and personalized touch, the hacker may also use the recipient’s native language, similar to how they speak at their workplace. These emails are indeed a step ahead of standard phishing attacks.
Whaling phishing attacks are tailored to trick a company’s senior management level, including the executives and managers. The purpose of these emails is the same as any phishing attack, but they appear a lot smoother, subtle, and authentic. Even though senior managers may be experienced in dealing with phishing attacks, they can still fall prey to these fraudulent emails.
Like standard phishing emails, they don’t contain malicious links or URLs but are a level ahead of them. They mimic the persona of the company’s CEO, asking employees to make a transaction or do them a favor.
Whaling may not be as direct as spear phishing, but it indeed convinces employees to follow their boss’ instructions without thinking twice. In most cases, the recipient doesn’t counteract out of fear of their manager, even after suspecting something suspicious.
Smishing and Vishing
Smishing and vishing don’t involve sending emails to attack the victim. Instead, they include mobile phones and telephones to do the job. In smishing, the cybercriminal sends malicious texts to the victim using the pretexts of an authentic company or bank.
For example, you may receive a message from your bank informing you that you have become a part of a scam, and to minimize the damage, instructing you to call a number or click a link. Once you follow the prompt, you will be directed to the scammer’s website designed to access your personal information.
In vishing, the criminal initiates a telephone conversation with the victim, making them believe that they are a representative from their bank.
This is a relatively new way to trick people into giving up their personal information. Angler phishing uses social media — posts, tweets, and fake websites — to collect data from an individual’s social networking accounts. These phishing attacks are super-targeted.
A large part of angler phishing’s success is played by the organizations that collect users’ data through social networking websites. Cybercriminals can hack a company’s account and interact with customers through instant messages, comments, or customer service. They extract a customer’s personal details, impersonating them as if they are helping them out, but the real intent is fraud.
6 Tips to Protect Your Online Identity from Phishing Attacks
You now know what a phishing attack is and what it may look like. The next step is to learn how to protect your online identity from such threats. Below are some crucial tips and tools to help you out.
Don’t Respond to Emails with Links
Emails with fake links are the most common type of phishing attack. So, stay wary of such emails and instant messages that ask you to click on a link to take a particular action. They may sound legit with an authentic domain and sender. The best thing to do is to click on the sender, using the “From” link at the top of the email, and check out the email address they are messaging you from. Chances are it is a fake email impersonating as a real company, bank, or social media website.
Whatever you do, do not click on the link. Delete the email to be safe, and if you can, block the sender.
Provide Information to Encrypted Websites Only
To determine whether a website is authentic, check if it starts with “https” and not simply “http.” If you’re making a financial transaction, legitimate sites will change to “https” on the credit card information screen. Another thing that you must look for is the lock symbol. It usually appears on the address bar (on the right or left side) or the screen’s bottom left corner.
Both indicate that the website is encrypted, meaning no third person can access its information other than you and the site owner. It ensures your phone number, credit card number, and address remain safe from cybercriminals.
If none of these things appear on a website, it’s better not to enter your sensitive information, share your credit card information, or download any file from it. Of course, not every site without the “https” is a phishing scam, but avoiding them is an excellent way to protect your online identity.
Secure Your Browser
Another way to protect your online identity from phishing attacks is configuring the browser after installing it on your computer. It will not only secure your personal information but also prevent the chances of its accidental sharing with hackers.
To secure your browser, open it and access its configuration settings. Hide your name, passwords, and email addresses that you input on different websites.
While you’re at it, look for the cookies option and enable it only when a website requires it. Hackers primarily retrieve browser cookies to access a user’s personal information. You shouldn’t turn off this option altogether; instead, limit its use to authentic websites only.
Change Your Account and Wi-Fi Passwords Regularly
Rotating your Wi-Fi and online accounts’ passwords is an excellent way to protect your online identity from phishing threats. With cyberattacks increasing every day, it’s common for online accounts to be compromised anytime.
Thus, changing your passwords will add a layer of protection to any current or upcoming phishing attacks. You must do it at least twice or thrice a year.
However, rotating passwords isn’t enough. You must create strong passwords that are hard to decode, whether for your Wi-Fi device or online account. Don’t use a number, name, or place the hacker can easily guess. Instead, use a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, as they are trickier to decode.
Don’t Ignore Security Updates
Security update notifications and messages for your device or browser can be irritating, which is why many people tend to ignore them. Unfortunately, it puts your personal information at risk for potential cyberattacks. Security updates are important as they keep your browser up-to-date with the latest phishing techniques.
Install Anti-Phishing Tools and Add-ons
If you have recently become a victim of a phishing attack even after following the above tips, install anti-phishing tools on all your devices. Many browsers also allow downloading anti-phishing add-ons. These programs instantly identify malicious websites and inform you proactively.
The best anti-phishing tools are Bitdefender Antivirus, Avast Antivirus, 360 Total Security, and Avira Free Security Suite. Most are free, so installing them across your organization’s devices won’t cost you anything. Instead, it will save you significant financial costs in the long run.
You can also install firewalls to protect your online identity. These programs protect your computers from potential threats. Make sure to download both network and desktop firewalls to strengthen your security system even more.
Organizations must also invest in a data security platform to detect potential phishing attacks on auto-pilot. It automatically alerts the user about unwanted activities, taking the load off the IT or cybersecurity team. They also identify the compromised account to help the security team mitigate further damage.
- Speed-optimized, cross-platform protection for Windows, Mac OS, iOS and Android
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- Safe Online Banking – a unique, dedicated browser secures your transactions
- Advanced Threat Defense – uses smart behavioral detection to monitor apps in real-time
- Wi-Fi Security Advisor – access the security of your Wi-Fi network and router from anywhere
- Security, privacy, and performance in one all-powerful premium package.
- Avast Secureline VPN
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- Antitrack Premium
- Works with PC, Mac, and Mobile
- With a near-perfect score (99.9%) in its file detection test, AV Comparatives gave Avira its top "Advanced+" award
- Won't slow down your device
- Avira Antivirus Pro 2017 operates in English, French, Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, and Russian
Phishing attacks are not only challenging to deal with but can also lead to significant financial loss for an organization. Needless to say, preventing them is a wise decision!
You can protect your online identity from phishing attacks by securing your browser, not opening the links in emails, providing your personal information to encrypted websites only, and changing your online accounts and Wi-Fi passwords twice or thrice a year.
If you run a business, investing in a data security platform will help you protect your online identity on all devices. You can also install free anti-phishing tools and firewalls. These programs proactively detect potential phishing attacks, preventing you from falling prey.
|Type of Phishing Attack||Description|
|Malicious Emails||Phishing emails look like they are sent from a reputable organization, but they are actually from an unregistered, fake domain.|
|Spear Phishing||These emails are more targeted to a person or a specific group of people. The cybercriminal already has some information about the victim, including their name, job title, job role, and company.|
|Whaling||Whaling phishing attacks are tailored to trick a companyâs senior management level, including the executives and managers.|
|Smishing and Vishing||These attacks include mobile phones and telephones to do the job. In smishing, the cybercriminal sends malicious texts to the victim using the pretexts of an authentic company or bank.|
|Angler Phishing||This is a relatively new way to trick people into giving up their personal information. Angler phishing uses social media â posts, tweets, and fake websites â to collect data from an individualâs social networking accounts.|
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