How to Protect Yourself Against 7 Common Types of Phishing Attacks

How to Protect Yourself Against 7 Common Types of Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks are one of the most common dangers we face online when it comes to security. That's why it is important to be aware of the phishing scams and how you can prevent them.

Phishing attacks are a common security risk for anyone that uses the internet on a regular basis. Both individuals and businesses can become the target of a phishing attack.

The goal of a cybercriminal conducting a phishing attack is to get hold of one's private information such as accounts credentials, passwords, credit card information. These scams are performed through various types of communication including emails, phones, and social media platforms.

To better understand how you can avoid becoming the victim of a phishing attack, we'll go over the most common types of phishing attacks and what you can do to prevent them.


What is phishing?

Phishing is one of the most common types of attacks hackers use to steal people's private information. This type of attack falls into the category of social engineering as the scammers use their charisma to trick people into giving them sensitive information.

The purpose of phishing is to gather private information with the goal of using that information for fraud, identity theft, attacking computer systems, or even for trading business secrets. A scammer relies on gaining the trust of his victim, usually by impersonating a company or entity the victim thinks of as trustworthy.

There are two main ways in which an attacker can collect private information through phishing:

  1. Tricking the user to give private information - This is achieved by creating compelling messages that convince the user to visit a third party website that will collect data.
  2. Using call-to-actions so the user installs malware - The user is persuaded into clicking to download an attachment that will install malware on the victim's device.

There are several common types of phishing techniques and we'll go through them so you better understand how they work and how to protect yourself against phishing attacks.


Types of phishing techniques and how to protect yourself against themTypes of phishing techniques and how to protect yourself against them

1. Email phishing scams

The most common ways hackers conduct phishing attacks is through emails. A phishing email appears as coming from a company or person that's familiar to the victim.

The phishing email contains at least one link leading to a malicious website. The fake website imitates the website of the company so the victim thinks it is genuine. In the email's copy, the victim is required to provide sensitive information that will give the attacker the opportunity to use it for identity theft or other financial frauds.

How to protect yourself

Don't click on any links - Avoid clicking on the links or downloading attachments from emails you receive out of nowhere.

Pay attention to details - Attackers go to great lengths to gain the trust of their victims so they'll often use real company logos and even spoofed email addresses that look similar to the company ones. Still, they are often misspelled or slightly different. Pay attention to such details before you trust the authenticity of the email.

2. Pop-up phishing scams

You've probably seen lots of pop-ups when browsing online. Pop-ups are those little windows appearing on your screen, often annoying. They usually advertise something related to the content you're seeing or ask for your permission to receive notifications and such.

Malicious pop-ups can be highly intrusive, being difficult to get rid of. The most common message you'll see in a malicious pop-up is that your computer has been infected with malware. The copy will try to make you download a software to help you get rid of the malware or even provide you a phone number where to call for help. Be aware as the pop-ups are sometimes disguised to look like coming from a trusted source.

How to protect yourself

Don't trust pop-ups - If your computer is, indeed, infected with malware, you will not receive a notification from your antivirus software in the browser. A pop-up telling you about malware is never good news.

Don't click on pop-ups - It's best to avoid clicking on pop-ups altogether. Even better, when you see a pop-up that looks questionable, open up your antivirus and run a computer scan.

Beware the copy - Malicious pop-ups often have poor spelling and bad grammar so make sure you examine the copy closely.

3. Tech cold calls scams

Another way in which hackers can get access to your private information through phishing techniques is by calling you and impersonating someone from a security company.

The caller will try and convince you that your computer has been infected with malware and you need professional help. He will then require you to install software that will give him remote access to your computer. Needless to say, once the attacker gets access to your device, he will install real malware that will further allow him to steal your private information. If this is not bad enough, the attackers often also ask for a fee for providing their services.

How to protect yourself

Don't allow remote access to your computer to someone you don't personally know.

Check the caller's authenticity - If the caller tells you that he works for a specific company, you can search for the phone number online and see if it is genuine.

4. Fake results phishing scams

It's not uncommon for hackers to use paid advertising to steal people's information. They often create fake ads on Google, looking as they are displayed by reputable companies.

The paid ads will display at the top of the search results page, making them more enticing. The copy will provide offers, often the kinds that seem too good to be true, so they lure the users to click on them. Once you click the ad, malware will start to download to your computer, compromising your security and private information. These malicious ads can also take you to fake websites where you are required to provide private data such as credit care information.

How to protect yourself

Check the URL - With the fake ads, attackers often use an URL that looks like one of the companies they are trying to copy but it is slightly different. Make sure the URL is the genuine one.

Type the URL - Instead of clicking on the ad, manually type the company's URL in the address bar and access the content from there.

5. Voice phishing scams

Voice phishing is also known as vishing and is the voice version of email phishing. Same as in the case of email phishing, the attackers are impersonating someone else with the goal of collecting private and financial information from the victims.

How to protect yourself

Check the authenticity of the caller - Before you give away your private information over the phone, first take a moment to check the real's company phone number online. It's best to hang up the phone and call the number you get online yourself to check if the call was legitimate.

Be aware of giving information over the phone - Established companies, especially banks, won't require you to provide sensitive information over the phone. If you need to require some personal data, banks usually make you go to their office so you update your personal data.

6. Pharming

Pharming is a type of attack that abandons the idea of traditional phishing. This method of attack relies on DNS poisoning.

DNS stands for domain name system. DNS servers are used to convert the website's names (www.website.com) into numerical IP addresses that are used for locating devices and computer services. With the pharming attack, the hacker picks a DNS server and changes the IP address associated with it. Then, the users will be redirected to malicious websites even though they are typing the correct website name.

How to protect yourself

Look for HTTPS - Before you trust a website, make sure the URL has been changed to HTTPS. The "s" shows that the website is secured.

Use a security solution - Fake websites are usually hard to spot, if not impossible in many cases. To best protect yourself from pharming attacks, use security software as the first line of defense.

7. Spear phishing

In most instances, attackers are not targeting specific people with their phishing scams. Phishing emails are sent in bulk, malicious pop-ups and fake ads display to anyone who happens to visit the wrong place. But this is not always the case.

In spear phishing scams, attackers first analyze the victim they target and then customize the message accordingly. They'll use the victim's name, phone number, position, and anything they can find online so the victim will think that the sender has a personal connection with him/her.

The goal of spear phishing is the same as with other types of phishing, tricking the victim into clicking on a malicious link or downloading an attachment so the attacker can collect private information.

Social media is the most common place where phishing takes place because they represent an opportunity for criminals to learn more details about their victims.

Spear phishing is the type of phishing that more commonly targets organizations and companies rather than individuals. Still, it doesn't hurt to take measures for prevention.

How to protect yourself

Be cautious with what you share online - The more personal information you share online, especially on social media platforms, the more data criminals can exploit. Learn to limit the amount of information you share so you maintain your online privacy.


How to identify fishing scams

While there's no full proof way to tell if an email is a scam or not, there are several patterns that you can usually find in a phishing email and that you should look out for.

Look for grammar mistakes - Trustworthy companies have copywriters that go to great lengths so their copy is perfect. Attackers, on the other hand, don't pay so much attention to grammar, punctuation, or how the content flows. While experienced copywriters can make mistakes, too, if you spot mistakes in the email's copy be aware that there are high chances you just received a phishing email.

Requesting private information - Any email that requires you to provide private information, credit card information or to verify your personal details should be seen as a threat. Reliable companies will never ask for your sensitive information through emails.

The content is trying too hard to alarm you - One of the common ways in which hackers manage to trick people into taking immediate action is by creating some sort of panic. If the email sounds too alarming such as that your account has expired or you'll lose some benefits right away, it's probably a phishing email.

Financial rewards - Such phishing emails will include copy telling you that you've won a large amount of money, a huge discount to a service you probably never used, winning the lottery when you haven't even purchased a ticket and so on. The goal is to get you to a malicious website where the hackers can gather your personal and financial information.

These are just some guidelines on what to look for so you spot a phishing email. But hackers are continuously coming with new and creative ways to trick people into providing personal data. Always stay alert about the messages and emails you get and carefully analyze them before you click or provide any kind of information.


Tips to protect yourself against phishing attacks

Below, you can find a couple of tips to further strengthen your online security and privacy to help protect yourself against phishing attacks.

Change your passwords - When it comes to online security, having strong passwords to secure your accounts is a must. Not only you should always make sure your passwords are different and hard to guess, but also, if you believe you might be the victim of a phishing attack, immediately change your passwords.

Watch out for shortened links - Shortened links will not display the real URL of the website, so it's easier for attackers to use such a link in their phishing email. Never blindly trust a shortened link. Place your cursor above the link to see the real address.

Run an antivirus scan - You should never leave your computer run without antivirus software installed. An antivirus can spot and get rid of many types of malware before they get to affect your computer and personal files. Also, don't forget to run regular checks and to scan your computer every time you come across something shady online such as an email or pop-up.

Use a firewall - A firewall acts as a shield between your computer and the internet. It analyzes all the network traffic and decides what sources are trustworthy and which aren't. By using a firewall and setting up a set of rules you'll easily strengthen your online security.

Educate yourself about hacking attacks - Learning about different types of attacks and what you can do to prevent them is one of the most powerful things you can do to protect yourself and your personal information online.

Learn about privacy and security methods - Knowing how to protect your online privacy and security is essential for keeping your information safe nowadays. We're constantly giving our best tips regarding online security and privacy so take a moment to check our articles and learn how to secure your sensitive data.

Finally, always be aware of the places you visit online and the sources you trust with your private information. Always make sure the website is legitimate before you provide any kind of sensitive data.

Thinking twice before clicking on a link or downloading something online is the best way to protect yourself against phishing attacks or other types of online scams.

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