Phishing is one of the most common cybersecurity threats today. Cybercriminals use emails or text messages to send links and attachments designed to steal your personal information. These often look like they came from an authentic website or a service you use. So it is best to learn how to recognize phishing before it is too late.
Before you move ahead to understand the tricks of the trade, let’s first understand what is the phishing, quickly.
Phishing is a form of cyberattack that targets your personal or financial information. Cybercriminals launch websites that are identical to trustworthy sources, like banks, universities, social media websites, and so on. These cybercriminals send out thousands of emails to different addresses hoping that at least a couple of people would fall prey. In the end, they need just a few users to click on a link.
How to recognize phishing?
Even though hackers are always coming up with new methods, some unmistakable signs indicate you are dealing with phishing. The emails and messages usually look like something you might receive from a streaming service, social media network, or your bank. They might seem completely legit at first. However, pay attention to the following:
- an email that warns you about suspicious logins to your account
- an unfamiliar invoice
- free stuff or coupons you could use on a specific website
- a message containing a link you have to click on to pay for the services
- an email urging you to confirm your login information
These are just the basics. Of course, the devil is in the details, and sometimes you need to examine your messages closely. Check these as well:
Businesses and companies send emails from real email addresses. Netflix was involved in phishing as cybercriminals contacted hundreds of users asking for their login information. However, it was clear that this was a phishing attempt, and Netflix involved authorities immediately. Users recognized phishing thanks to the email address.
Official addresses look like [email protected]. Cybercriminals have to add an extra letter or a symbol to a domain. So if an email reads like [email protected], it is a clear sign of phishing. Also, large businesses don’t use public email domains like @gmail.com.
Grammar is another telltale sign. A poorly written email is a red flag. Large companies have employees who are in charge of writing emails and public statements. They don’t make spelling or grammar mistakes. Hackers target people who don’t stop to read an email, so syntax is not one of their priorities.
Attachments and links
Companies and services rarely include attachments in their emails. If they need you to download a particular document, they will probably direct you to an official website. There will be a secure link waiting for you. In case you do get an attachment and an email looks real, double-check the format of a file. Stay away from attachments that end in .exe, .zip, .rar, or .src.
Always check the links in the email. Hover the mouse over the text to confirm that the link leads to an official website. If anything seems strange, don’t click on it. Additionally, it shouldn’t start with ‘http://’. It is a sign of an unsafe and potentially dangerous website. Instead, the links should begin with ‘https://’.
How to protect yourself from phishing
Inbox filters are already doing the majority of the work for you. They sort suspicious emails and send them to spam or trash categories. However, cybercriminals always find a way to outsmart the filters, so you have to keep your eyes open. If you get an email from a bank saying that your account is suspended, don’t open it or click on any links. Contact your bank directly in case you are worried. Otherwise, ignore the email.
Install cybersecurity tools like antivirus or a VPN. There are many VPN services out there, so you can select the one that fits your needs. Find articles that showcase the features of high-quality VPNs, like a NordVPN review. They will help you get a better understanding of how VPN works. Cybersecurity tools can do much more. They protect you from many cyber-attacks and are a useful thing to have on your computer. Just remember to keep them all up to date!
If you think that a cybercriminal managed to get your personal information, contact the authorities immediately. Malware could be easier to deal with on your own. Those of you who think they downloaded an attachment from an email should scan your computer using antivirus software right away. Then delete the potential threat.