How do I define phishing? Do the techniques used in phishing bear any semblance to actual fishing? These are some of the questions that you will encounter if you are asked to describe to a layman what phishing is. Whatever your definition will be, it’s no fun to be a victim of phishing scams. Unfortunately, everyone is vulnerable to phishing.
Modern web users frequently find themselves at the receiving end as far as phishing scams are concerned. Whether it’s an unknown phone caller pretending to be your banker or a phony message promising millions, phishing scams exist everywhere. What’s even scarier is that phishers rake in billions every year. For you to define phishing, here’s what you should know.
Social engineering is the core component of all phishing scams. Typically, phishing involves manipulating an individual into believing that the person, website, or email that they are dealing with is legitimate. The objective of this psychological manipulation is to trick the user into revealing sensitive personal or company information. In recent years, there have been reported cases of malware-aided phishing scams.
Users are tricked into downloading malicious software, which is then used to steal sensitive information. Typically, phishing scams that rely on social engineering encourage users to take an unacceptable course of action, such as divulging company information. Phishers use language that suggests urgency and familiarity with the potential victims. Potential victims are sometimes pressurized to provide information.
In extreme cases, phishers have been reported to walk brazenly into company offices to perpetuate their activities in person. Hackers may, for instance, impersonate IT contractors and play this role to the tiniest details, including getting uniforms and identification badges.
These cybercriminals often create flimsy excuses to convince you why you need their services. Once they arrive to “fix” the problem that they pointed out earlier, they use this as an opportunity to plant spyware on your computer systems to that they can gather as much data as they wish.
If asked to define phishing, many people will point out that it’s a cybercrime perpetrated via email. However, phishers also carry out their attacks via other communication channels, including text messages, websites, and phone calls.
In some cases, phishers use a combination of different communication channels to manipulate their victims fully. A study by First Orion established that phishing calls account for nearly 30% of all calls. This clearly shows that cybercriminals are increasingly using different methods to target their victims.
Phishers Have Preferences
Unbeknown to many, phishers don’t target just anyone. They prefer reeling in specific types of victims. Initially, phishing scams targeted consumers. However, there has been a shift in recent years, with most phishers targeting business. In 2018 alone, 83% of all companies were targeted by phishers.
Often, phishers target SMEs because most of them don’t have adequate information security measures in place. Likewise, phishers target specific people working at these companies. According to cybersecurity experts, executives, administrative assistants, HR staff, and sales team members are some of the most targeted employees.
Phishers Can Attack You Anytime
As you define phishing, you shouldn’t forget to mention the fact that phishers don’t take time off from their illicit activities. They go phishing 24/7, 365 days a year. Therefore, you should never let your guard down, even during holidays. Instead, you should be particularly vigilant around holidays. During this time, cybercriminals tend to ramp their efforts, knowing too well that individuals and businesses have relaxed their cybersecurity measures.
Likewise, phishers tend to leverage unforeseeable disasters such as hurricanes to steal information from unsuspecting victims. Often, they prey on people’s compassion and pretend to be collecting donations for the benefit of disaster victims. Therefore, you should never let your guard down during holidays, weekends, or when disaster hits.
Phishers are Skilled Manipulators
It would be incorrect to define phishing without mentioning that those who are behind this activity are usually skilled manipulators. A phisher typically impersonates your legitimate contacts or even companies that you’ve worked with in the past. Often, these cybercriminals impersonate representatives of notable companies such as PayPal, Netflix, and Microsoft to hoodwink potential victims.
Phishing attacks are becoming bolder and more versatile. This has made it even more challenging to define phishing in the first place. However, any attempt to collect information fraudulently by using manipulative techniques is categorized as phishing. Typically, phishers seek to capitalize on human vulnerability to perpetrate their attacks.
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