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Home / Email / Security Matters: How to Avoid Phishing Scams

Security Matters: How to Avoid Phishing Scams

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As you know, phishing is a technique that involves tricking the user to steal confidential information , passwords, etc, into thinking you are a confidential site.

So far the hackers have used emails to launch this type of attack, but with the widespread use of social media networks and smartphones with internet access, the types of attacking are multiplying.

So yes, nobody wants to fall prey to a phishing scam. There’s a good reason that such scams will continue, though: They are successful enough for cybercriminals to make massive profits. Phishing scams have been around practically since the inception of the Internet, and they will not go away any time soon. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid becoming a victim yourself. Here are 10 basic guidelines in keeping yourself safe:

1. Keep Informed About Phishing Techniques – New phishing scams are being developed all the time. Without staying on top of these new phishing techniques, you could inadvertently fall prey to one. Keep your eyes peeled for news about new phishing scams. By finding out about them as early as possible, you will be at much lower risk of getting snared by one. For IT administrators, ongoing security awareness training and simulated phishing for all users is highly recommended in keeping security top of mind throughout the organization.

2. Think Before You Click! – It’s fine to click on links when you’re on trusted sites. Clicking on links that appear in random emails and instant messages, however, isn’t such a smart move. Hover over links that you are unsure of before clicking on them. Do they lead where they are supposed to lead? A phishing email may claim to be from a legitimate company and when you click the link to the website, it may look exactly like the real website. The email may ask you to fill in the information but the email may not contain your name. Most phishing emails will start with “Dear Customer” so you should be alert when you come across these emails. When in doubt, go directly to the source rather than clicking a potentially dangerous link.

3. Install an Anti-Phishing Toolbar – Most popular Internet browsers can be customized with anti-phishing toolbars. Such toolbars run quick checks on the sites that you are visiting and compare them to lists of known phishing sites. If you stumble upon a malicious site, the toolbar will alert you about it. This is just one more layer of protection against phishing scams, and it is completely free.

4. Verify a Site’s Security – It’s natural to be a little wary about supplying sensitive financial information online. As long as you are on a secure website, however, you shouldn’t run into any trouble. Before submitting any information, make sure the site’s URL begins with “https” and there should be a closed lock icon near the address bar. Check for the site’s security certificate as well. If you get a message stating a certain website may contain malicious files, do not open the website. Never download files from suspicious emails or websites. Even search engines may show certain links which may lead users to a phishing webpage which offers low cost products. If the user makes purchases at such a website, the credit card details will be accessed by cybercriminals.

5. Never Go to Your Bank’s Website by Clicking on Links Included in Emails

Do not click on hyperlinks or links attached in the email, as it might direct you to a fraudulent website. Type in the URL directly into your browser or use bookmarks / favorites if you want to go faster.

6. Never Give Out Personal Information – As a general rule, you should never share personal or financially sensitive information over the Internet. This rule spans all the way back to the days of America Online, when users had to be warned constantly due to the success of early phishing scams. When in doubt, go visit the main website of the company in question, get their number and give them a call. Most of the phishing emails will direct you to pages where entries for financial or personal information are required. An Internet user should never make confidential entries through the links provided in the emails. Never send an email with sensitive information to anyone. Make it a habit to check the address of the website. A secure website always starts with “https” and your browser should show an icon of a closed lock.

7. Phishing Knows All Languages

Phishing knows no boundaries, and can reach you in any language. In general, they’re poorly written or translated, so this may be another indicator that something is wrong. If you never you go to the Spanish website of your bank, why should your statements now be in this language?

8. Have the Slightest Doubt, Do Not Risk It

The best way to prevent phishing is to consistently reject any email or news that asks you to provide confidential data. Delete these emails and call your bank to clarify any doubts.

9. Check Your Online Accounts Regularly – If you don’t visit an online account for a while, someone could be having a field day with it. Even if you don’t technically need to, check in with each of your online accounts on a regular basis. Get into the habit of changing your passwords regularly too. To prevent bank phishing and credit card phishing scams, you should personally check your statements regularly. Get monthly statements for your financial accounts and check each and every entry carefully to ensure no fraudulent transactions have been made without your knowledge.

10. Keep Your Browser Up to Date – Security patches are released for popular browsers all the time. They are released in response to the security loopholes that phishers and other hackers inevitably discover and exploit. If you typically ignore messages about updating your browsers, stop. The minute an update is available, download and install it.

11. Use Firewalls – High-quality firewalls act as buffers between you, your computer and outside intruders. You should use two different kinds: a desktop firewall and a network firewall. The first option is a type of software, and the second option is a type of hardware. When used together, they drastically reduce the odds of hackers and phishers infiltrating your computer or your network.

12. Be Wary of Pop-Ups – Pop-up windows often masquerade as legitimate components of a website. All too often, though, they are phishing attempts. Many popular browsers allow you to block pop-ups; you can allow them on a case-by-case basis. If one manages to slip through the cracks, don’t click on the “cancel” button; such buttons often lead to phishing sites. Instead, click the small “x” in the upper corner of the window.

Know Your Backups

Even if you’re appropriately skeptical and avoid clicking on most links, you might get phished. The recent Gmail phishing scam is so clever that even some IT professionals fell for it. So experts agree that beyond trying to avoid phishing scams, you need to prepare defensively in case you do get phished. That means taking standard cybersecurity precautions like enabling multi-factor authentication on all accounts that offer it, using a password manager or other system to maintain strong, random, unique passwords, and backing up your data.

Other Helpful Tips:

  • Unless an email is digitally signed, you can’t be sure it wasn’t forged or spoofed.
  • Double-clicking the “lock” icon on a website will display the security certificate for the website. If the certificate isn’t displayed, or you get a warning message that the address of the website does not match the certificate, do not continue.
  • Typically, phisher emails are not personalized, but they can be. Valid messages from your bank and e-commerce companies are personalized. When in doubt, call the company directly to see if the email is in fact from them.
  • Phishers have the ability to spoof and/or forge the https:// that you normally see on a secure Web server and a legitimate-looking Web address, which – again – is why you should always type the web address yourself instead of clicking on displayed links.

“If there was a silver bullet, if there was that piece of technology, a plugin, some email filter that could actually stop phishing attacks we would be out of business,” Higbee says. “But the core of this problem is human intuition and insight.” The key to protecting yourself is to be on guard. Phishing scammers are wily, but so are you. Stay vigilant.

 

Sources:
Phishing.org
AntiPhishing.org
Panda Security
Wired.com

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