Simple and Easy ways to protect yourself from Phishing Attacks

What is a phishing attack:

Phishing is a cyber attack that uses disguised email as a weapon. The goal is to trick the email recipient into believing that the message is something they want or need  a request from their bank, for instance, or a note from someone in their company — and to click a link or download an attachment.

What really distinguishes phishing is the form the message takes: the attackers masquerade as a trusted entity of some kind, often a real or plausibly real person, or a company the victim might do business with. It’s one of the oldest types of cyberattacks, dating back to the 1990s, and it’s still one of the most widespread and pernicious, with phishing messages and techniques becoming increasingly sophisticated.

Phishing is often used to gain a foothold in corporate or governmental networks as a part of a larger attack, such as an advanced persistent threat (APT) event. In this latter scenario, employees are compromised in order to bypass security perimeters, distribute malware inside a closed environment, or gain privileged access to secured data.

An organization succumbing to such an attack typically sustains severe financial losses in addition to declining market share, reputation, and consumer trust. Depending on scope, a phishing attempt might escalate into a security incident from which a business will have a difficult time recovering.

Some simple and easy ways you can protect yourself from phishing attacks

1.  Stop clicking links in e-mails that direct you to your bank or a financial institution. Stop filling out forms sent to you by your bank or financial institution. If you want to visit the site to see if you need to confirm/update/verify your account, open up a browser and type the link or retrieve it from your favorites.

2.  If you suspect an e-mail is part of a phishing scheme, report it. Report it to the financial institution, the FTC, and the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

 3.  Update your browser, your antivirus software, and any other security software. The latest versions of such software have phishing filters that detect attempts and warn you if it suspects you’ve surfed to a site that isn’t legitimate.

4.  Stop using public computers to access private information. Internet kiosks at hotels and other business are convenient but often have Trojans and keyloggers installed that collect and transmit your information to the criminals. Access personal and financial information only from a computer you trust to be free from these evils.

5.You should always, where possible, use a secure website (indicated by https:// and a security “lock” icon in the browser’s address bar) to browse, and especially when submitting sensitive information online, such as credit card details.

You should never use public, unsecured Wi-Fi for banking, shopping or entering personal information online (convenience should not trump safety). When in doubt, use your mobile’s 3/4G or LTE connection.

As a slight aside, it should be easier to spot dodgy, unsecure websites Google, for example, is looking to crack down on this soon by labeling sites that do not offer appropriate protection.

6. 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”.

7. 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.

8. There are plenty of reasons to use antivirus software. Special signatures that are included with antivirus software guard against known technology workarounds and loopholes. Just be sure to keep your software up to date. New definitions are added all the time because new scams are also being dreamed up all the time. Anti-spyware and firewall settings should be used to prevent phishing attacks and users should update the programs regularly. Firewall protection prevents access to malicious files by blocking the attacks. Antivirus software scans every file which comes through the Internet to your computer. It helps to prevent damage to your system.

You don’t have to live in fear of phishing scams. By keeping the preceding tips in mind, you should be able to enjoy a worry-free online experience.