What Is The Best Defense Against Phishing?

One of the most common and frustrating security threats is phishing. Although virtually everyone knows about phishing and how it works, most people still fall victim. 

Basically, phishing involves the theft of identity. Meaning, it's a scam in which random or specific individuals are contacted by emails, telephone, or text messages by someone who poses as a legitimate institution to lure victims into providing sensitive and valuable data such as passwords, banking credit card details and other personal information. The data is then used to access important accounts and can result in identity theft and financial loss.
 
Although the ultimate goal is always the same, cyber criminals have devised many ways to launch their attack. And the degree of phishing attacks has become so sophisticated that even many high-ranking organizations have become phishing scam victims. Hence, to secure your valuable data from any further exploitation, anti-phishing solutions have been introduced.
However, before we talk about the defense against phishing attacks, you should know how it works and the different types of the cyber attack.

Types Of Phishing Attacks

Spear Phishing:    The term 'Phishing Attack' is derived from the idea that fraudsters are fishing for random victims by using phony or defrauding emails as bait. Spear phishing attacks then streamline it down to specific people, such as high-value victims and organizations. So, the attackers are not trying to get the banking credentials of 1,000 consumers as they find targeting a handful of businesses more lucrative. Attackers who do this already have some information- Their names, Place of employment, Job title, Email address, etc- about their victim.

Unfortunately, spear-phishing attacks are extremely successful because the attackers spend a lot of time crafting information specific to the recipient.

Vishing:    Vishing is derived from two words; Voice and Phishing. And from that, it involves the use of a phone call. The victims get phone calls from the attackers disguised as representatives from their financial institutions warning them about a supposed imminent threat on their account and then asking them to call a number and input their banking details or PIN for rectification. But, the phone number rings straight to the attacker via a voice-over-IP service.

Smishing:    The goal of a smishing scam is to trick the victim into believing that they received a message from a trusted person or organization and then convince them to take some steps that will give the attacker exploitable information or access to their confidential account. This scam is very successful because people are more likely to read and respond to text messages than email.

Whaling:     Whaling is a more targeted form of phishing. This type of phishing scam attacks executives of organizations. The victims are high-value and the stolen data is extremely valuable than what a low-level employee may offer.
The attackers patiently gather sufficient information about the victim such as daily routine, who they see and where they meet them, etc. before framing the phishing message that will be used in the whaling attack. All these make it very successful.

Now that we are clear on some of the most common types of phishing, let’s consider some of the best ways to protect yourself from falling victim.

Best Defense Against Phishing

Verify Sender's Email Address:    The most common type of phishing involves the use of emails. Attackers send out generic emails to their victims. The best defense against such is to verify the sender of any email you receive. Any email address that has funny signs is a red flag. Also, there are tools to validate the genuineness of an email address. Tools email lookup, reverse and email search provide you with the details of any email address.
 
When you run the email search it provides you with all the necessary details. If it turns out blank, then it's fake.

Regularly Update Your Software:     Always keep the version of your operating system updated. Outdated apps and operating systems hold way too many bugs and can be an easy target for phishing attacks. Phishing attacks get more advanced by the day, and so are many browsers updating their security measures and releasing patches in response to the attacks. Hence, don’t ignore notifications about updating your browser.

Avoid Password Auto-Fill Service:    Phishers also use platforms to attack their victims. Hence to keep your password secure, skip any option of “save password” that pops up on a website, especially if it’s an unknown site. In fact, you should ensure the site is safe and secure before inputting your data. Make sure the site’s URL begins with “HTTPS” and there should be a closed lock icon near the address bar. If those are not there, it’s not safe and secure.

Two-Factor Authentication:     Two-factor authentication, popularly dubbed 2FA, is the second layer of security to verify your identity. In simple terms, it’s to confirm you are who you say you are. Usually, 2FA could be a question about something personal about you, something you have. This ensures that even if your password is stolen, the probability of someone knowing your 2FA is very unlikely.

Conclusion

With the advance in technology and so much of our lives going digital, it’s no wonder that the frequency of cyber crimes is on the rise. It's only ideal that we prevent our sensitive data and information from falling into the wrong hands. 

NCBI:             US Federal Trade Commission:

Ben Hartwig is Web Operations Executive at Infotracer.

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