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The introduction of emails has been a monumental step in the right direction regarding exchanging messages with people across the globe. Sending messages by post seems outdated now when all you need is just a click of a button.

However, with this convenience has come the evil of phishing email attacks which have been used to wreak havoc on unsuspecting people—knowing how emails work can help you avoid scammers and hackers. 

How Phishing Emails Are Used For Cyber Attacks

Phishing is regarded as one of the oldest types of email attacks; however, it is still commonly used against many organisations of various sizes. It occurs when fraudsters spam the email addresses of people and organisations with phishing emails.

Such emails can sometimes come with promises of prizes or threats to suspend an account. A typical example of this attack is when people are asked to click on a link in the email sent to them or visit a website to address an issue.

Rather than win a prize as promised or get a non-existent issue addressed, users end up getting their identities stolen. Sometimes, they could get their computer infected with viruses.

How Phishing Attacks Work

Attackers who perpetrate phishing scams work to find a way to trick their victims into taking a particular action. In URL phishing, for example, hackers trick victims into visiting a fake website where they are asked to give their passwords and other sensitive information.

Such sites may request that users reset their passwords and re-enter their credit card and personal information to validate an account. They can sometimes ask these people to download a software update, but it is actually malware in disguise.

More Significant Threats From Phishing Attacks

The threats that phishing attacks pose are not static but keep evolving. The dangers they pose to enterprise security continue to get more complex. When phishing emails are sent, hackers pretend to be reputable persons or entities to dupe users.

In a type of this scam known as a spear phishing email, attackers pretend to be individuals in the same company as the recipient. The sender of a whale phishing email can pretend to be the CFO or CEO and instruct the recipient to transfer specific amounts of money to an account set up for this fraudulent practice.

Hackers have recorded enormous success with these types of phishing scams. From what is known, up to 91% of hacking attacks at the moment started with phishing or spear phishing. Since each breach potentially leads to losses to the tune of millions in damages to businesses, organisations need sophisticated protection to forestall the constantly changing attacks.

Protection Against A Phishing Virus

Typically, a phishing virus is initiated via an email that appears to be from a known source, such as a credit company, a bank, a social website, an IT administrator, or an online payment processor. Such emails come with the instruction to click on a malicious link where users are asked to give some of their personal information, such as credit card number, passcode, or account information.

The information gathered is used to gain access to the users' accounts for committing identity theft. A spear-phishing virus is designed to conduct more targeted phishing aimed at a particular person or position within an organisation. Social engineering techniques are used with this type of phishing virus, and whatever information was gathered about the victim is included in the email to make it more believable.

When this is done, there is a higher chance that the recipient will act on it. Some sophisticated solutions with powerful email security technology can be used to prevent phishing virus attacks. This can be further enhanced by dynamic user awareness training.

How To Identify A Phishing Attempt

As part of the tactics scammers use, they send text messages or emails to people in their attempt to steal their passwords, Social Security Numbers, or account numbers. When they get hold of this information, it becomes possible for them to gain access to their bank, email, or other types of accounts.

They could even sell this information to other scammers. Scammers launch thousands of attacks like these every day in their phishing attempts. Since technology is ever-evolving, scammers also attempt to update their tactics to keep up with trends and the latest news. However, some tactics have been found to remain common with phishing text messages or emails.

When phishing emails or text messages are sent, they usually tell a story to lure you into clicking on a link or opening up an attachment. You may receive an unexpected text message or email that appears to be from an organisation you know or can trust. Such organisations include credit card companies, banks, and utility companies.

Such fictitious messages can also come from an online payment website or an app. These messages could read:

  • We have noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts – when they have not been.
  • There is an issue with your payment information or account – there is none.
  • You need to confirm some financial or personal information – you don't need to.
  • Your confirmation for necessary action on an invoice you don't recognise – it's a scam.
  • Congratulations to you for being eligible for a government refund – it's fake.
  • Presentation of an offer of a coupon for free stuff – it's not genuine.

How To Stay Protected From Phishing Attacks

Email spam filters keep several phishing emails out of the inbox. However, scammers also keep working on how to outsmart these spam filters. Therefore, adding multiple layers of protection to your computer system is necessary. These are additional ways you can protect yourself from phishing attacks.

Use security software to protect your computer

Whatever software you use to protect your computer, set it so it can update automatically. It will be able to handle any new security threats this way.

Set security software on your phone that updates automatically

These automatic updates can offer you protection against security threats when they come.

Use multiple-factor authentication

Some types of accounts give extra security layers through two or more credentials before you are allowed to log into your account. This is what is referred to as multi-factor authentication. The additional credentials that are required to log into your accounts can be categorised into three classes:

  • Information you have – this can be a passcode, an answer to a security question, or a PIN.
  • Something you already have can be a one-time verification passcode that can be sent to you through email, text, or an authenticator app. It can also be a security key.
  • Something you are – this can either be a scan of your face, retina, or fingerprint.

With a multi-factor authenticator, it becomes increasingly difficult for scammers to gain access to your account in case they have hold of your username and password.

Protect your data by backing it up

Any data important to your computer should have a backup on an external hard disk or be stored in the cloud. You should give your phone the same backup treatment.

Find An Expert To Help Keep You Safe Online

It is more than likely you have received an email or text message asking you to click on a link in the message or download and open an attachment. If you have not experienced this before, take a moment to ponder whether you have an account with the company or know the person who contacted you.

It could be a phishing scam if you cannot affirm the source or the person who contacted you as known or genuine. Once you have verified that you have nothing to do with the message and the sender, report it and delete it.

Remember that phishing attackers seldom work singly in most sophisticated scams. They will be willing to launch another attack if they realise you have not risen to the bait of the earlier one they sent.

These attackers are usually highly skilled, and you don't want to leave anything to chance. To have complete rest of mind, let an IT support professional look at the security setup and level of your computer system and other devices.

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