What is Phishing?

Cybercriminals can go to any extent to infiltrate systems or networks with malware programs and perform illicit activities. They use several techniques to do that; one of those is the Social Engineering attack. One of the most dangerous and widely performed Social Engineering attack forms is Phishing,

In this guide, we would know in detail what Phishing is, how it is performed, its examples and how to stay protected from it.

What is Phishing

Phishing is a type of Social Engineering attack in which the victims are psychologically manipulated to provide sensitive information or install malicious programs. It is similar to 'fishing.' While in fishing, the fishermen use the fish food as the bait to trap fishes into fishing-net or fishing rod, in Phishing the cyber attackers use fake offers, warnings as bait to trap users into their scam.

The attackers can perform Phishing through emails, SMS, phone call, fake websites, and even face to face.

We will now discuss how Phishing is performed through different mediums.

How is Phishing Performed through Emails

For performing Phishing through emails, Cybercriminals follow these steps −

  • At first, the targets are finalized, and details about them are collected. The target can be an individual, group of people or an organization.

  • Now, the email message is framed based on the details gain from the previous step. For example, a fake banking email is prepared by knowing in which bank the target's account is. Similarly, Netflix users whose subscription is soon going to end, get fake subscription extension emails.

  • In this step, the email is sent to the targets with a catchy subject line and pictures. The mail is sent to thousands of people so that at least hundreds of them can get into the trap.

  • After getting a response from a few people, the Phisher now collects the sensitive information or makes them download and install the malicious programs.

  • In the last step, the information obtained from the previous steps would be used to conduct illicit activities like stealing money from the bank, hacking social media sites, and more.

This is a generalized pattern an attacker follows in conducting Phishing through emails. There are various other ways too.

How is Phishing performed through Calls

Like emails, calls are also the popular way to conduct Phishing. Here are the steps cybercriminals take to conduct Phishing.

  • In the first step, phone number lists are illegally obtained from banks, tourism sites, and similar organizations, and targets are finalized.

  • The attackers then call targets by pretending as a customer representative or technician. The victims are offered fake promises or are warned to make changes in their accounts.

  • In greed of getting the offer or in fear of losing the account, the victims give their details to the phony caller.

  • After getting the required information, the attacker uses it for fulfilling their purpose.

How is Phishing performed through the fake website

Here is how Phishers use fake websites for trapping their targets −

  • At first, the targets are finalized by getting their background information.

  • Now they are sent fake URLs through emails or SMS. The mail or text tries to convince them to open the given link by providing fake offers or warning them.

  • After the user clicks on the link, the webpage is loaded, which is designed exactly like the official webpage so that users are convinced and type their information on the page.

  • After getting user information through a fake website, cybercriminals use it to their advantage and perform malicious activities.

How to protect yourself from Phishing?

Although cybercriminals craft the Phishing scam pretty cleverly, you can still spot it and protect yourself from it. Here are the preventive steps −

  • If the mail pretending from an official source contains spelling and grammatical mistakes, it might be from Phishers.

  • Never click on the email links sent from unknown, untrustworthy senders.

  • It is advised to never share your confidential information with anyone of emails or phone calls. No bank or organization asks for such details on calls or emails.

  • Use the spam filters on your email. Most service providers like Gmail, Yahoo come with in-built spam filters.

  • Equip your system with a robust security solution that can provide you web protection and block spam emails and websites.