What Is Phishing? And How To Prevent It

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Cyber-attackers are always looking for new ways to launch an attack and steal users’ sensitive information. One such tactic is phishing. The hackers trick the targeted victims and ask them to give away their useful information. If you want to discover more about phishing, then bear with us. In this article, we’ll discuss various aspects of phishing, including:

  • What is phishing?
  • Types of phishing scams
  • How does phishing work?
  • Ways to detect phishing signs?
  • How to prevent phishing?

So, let’s get started.

What Is Phishing?

Phishing is the most common example of a social engineering technique. In this tactic, users give away their private information to cyber-criminals. The attackers adopt various means of phishing. (we’ll describe luring the victims in the next section). The malicious agents send the message by pretending to be one from a legal source of authority. They copy logos from official websites and attempt everything to make it look like an authentic one. They target a wide range of organizations, including business companies and financial services. A successful phishing attack results in:

  • Credit card fraud
  • Client’s details getting robbed.
  • Data sold on the dark web or to third-parties.
  • Identity theft
  • Loss of login credentials
  • Reputational damage
  • Unauthorized transactions 
  • Viruses, malware, and ransomware getting into your system

Studies reveal that 70% of the attackers use phishing and hacking techniques to fool the users. Thus, phishing is common in today’s era. These messages ask for an immediate call to action. If you click on the link sent by the attacker, it’ll take you to a bogus website page that seems like the real one. The website might ask you to enter your details like a bank account number or social security number. Once you enter the correct information, the hacker can access all your data and even compromise it. 

It is also possible that you download malware or spyware on your system. The criminals can gain access to your information in this way too. Phishing is a serious and emerging crime. The Verizon Data Breach Report of 2019 ranked phishing as a top threat in all breaches. With each passing day, the number of phishing cases increases. The PhishLabs Report for 2019 also revealed that phishing increases to 40.9% from the previous year.

Types of Phishing Scams

Phishing can take various forms and shapes. Sometimes, the attacker might ask you to click on a link and enter your details. You can also be asked to click on any given link to verify your account. Or you can get redirected to an infected website page that asks for your financial details. 

No matter whatever the tactic is, the attackers’ purpose is to have your financial details. The following mentioned below are five different types of phishing scams. So, let’s discuss them one by one. 

Email Phishing

Email or deceptive phishing are both the same things. It is the most used phishing scam. The hacker pretends to be someone from the legal company and asks you to provide your information. Such emails use urgency to threaten the victims into giving away their valuable information.

The cyber-crooks might also fool the users to click on a click that takes them onto a fake website. Such websites might look like Amazon, eBay, or your bank but are not the real ones. Visiting these sites means that you might install malware and viruses onto your device. Hence, the hacker can get easy access to your device and data.

The success of email phishing depends on how the fake email resembles accurate with the real one. The PayPal scammers are a fine example of email phishing. The scammers send an email and urge the recipient to click on a link to correct miscalculations with their account. In reality, the link redirects you to a fake PayPal login page that gathers victims’ login details. It was a trap to help the attacker to compromise it later.

Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is a more personalized form of phishing. It targets specific individuals or business organizations. The difference between email phishing and spear phishing is quite clear. Email phishing targets general users means it can be anyone like you and me. But, in spear phishing, hackers sent emails to specific targets after thorough research. Their aim is to encourage the victims to provide their information or infect their devices with malware.

In 2016, Amazon customers received an email in which hackers used spear-phishing tactics. The email has a subject line that their orders are on the way. The message also has a code in it. Upon opening the email, the customers downloaded ransomware on their devices.

In other spear-phishing techniques, the attacker even targets the employee of any company. The email appears to come from the CEO or any HR department representative. They might ask for your details for any verification process. If the spear-phishing technique is successful, it leads to data breaches. Moreover, it can damage business reputation to a great extent. 

Clone Phishing

It is the type of phishing scam that is most difficult to detect. The attackers create an identical version of an email that the victims have already received. The victim gets the cloned email from an address like the original sender. The body of the email is also the same. The only difference is that of an attachment. The email sent by the scammer has an attachment in it. When you click it, it takes you to a bogus website or opens up an infected attachment. 


Like spear-phishing, whaling is yet another advanced form of phishing. Whaling targets the CEO, chief operating officer, or other high-ranking executives within organizations. The fundamental purpose of whaling is to target influential people and ask them to provide their company’s most sensitive data. Such attacks need much research and need a well-planned strategy to execute them. These scams use fake emails that pretend to have come from any legal source. 

Pop-Up Phishing

In this scam, the pop-up ads trick the users to install malware on their systems. They even ask them to buy any antivirus protection tools or products. If you install the software, it infects your system with malware. It consists of fake messages that usually pop-up on your screen when you’re surfing the web. Most of the time, the cyber-criminals inject the websites with malicious codes that result in pop-up messages and ads. 

How Does Phishing Works?

Below are the steps that clarify the working of a phishing attack:

  • The attacker analyzes the targets and decides either to target individuals or organizations.
  • They start to think of the strategies they can use to target the victims.
  • After collecting the information, the phisher either uses it to benefit them or even sells it to third-parties or on the dark web.
  • They create methods like phishing emails or spear-phishing and send messages to the targeted victims. They adopt every possible means to lure their targets.
  • Once the messages are sent, they track every target and gather the information the victims provide.

How to Detect Phishing Scams?

The phishers have become more sophisticated than before. They now use advanced tools and techniques while they launch a phishing attack. But, there are always some signs through which you can detect a phishing scam. Here are the signs that might help you in detecting a phishing scam:

  • Attachments that seems spammy
  • Asking for an immediate call of action
  • Bank or other legal company asking your details on an email, call or even text message.
  • Companies calling you by your name
  • Inconsistent and suspicious email address, domain names, and URLs
  • Grammatical and spelling errors
  • Greeting style
  • Mismatched URL
  • Unexpected correspondence

Tips If You’re Already a Victim of Phishing

If you’ve already been a victim of phishing, then you need to adopt a different strategy. The strategy you will follow depends on the kind of scam you experience. The following mentioned below are some useful tips if you’re a victim of phishing:

  • If you have given someone your banking details, call your bank and ask them to block your card.
  • You should report your phishing incident to the concerned authorities. 
  • Change the password of all your accounts.
  • Always use anti-virus software and scan your system after you click or download any suspicious link.
  • Do inform your friends and other members in the contact list that you’re a victim of a phishing scam. Sometimes that attacker uses your data to target more people. 
  • Start using a VPN for boosting your online security and privacy. 

How to Protect Yourself From Phishing?

Although there are several ways to detect phishing, the best idea is to look for ways to prevent it. There are various ways to protect yourself from phishing in the same way as there are signs to recognize phishing. The following mentioned below are some ways to prevent phishing scams:

Avoid Clicking on Any Links

Be wary of the links you receive every day. Most of them are bogus and malicious. Please think twice before downloading it. You can also cross-check the sender and other information that can help you in identifying whether it is a phishing email or not. 

Activate Your Spam Filter

You should always change your email settings to keep spam out of your inbox. It is an effective way to prevent phishing emails from getting into your inbox. Also, it will add an extra layer of security that protects against malicious emails. Create a list of useful email addresses from where you receive frequent emails and put all other ones in your spam folder.

Educate Yourself on Phishing

The first and foremost important step is educating yourself and your employees about phishing. Educate your employees about their roles to combat phishing attacks. They should learn how to get alerted when they receive emails from an unknown sender with attachments. The employees shouldn’t provide any of the company’s sensitive details to anyone by email. They should have the art to detect phishing emails and must effectively respond to them. There should be a team that must take care of the network security, and whenever such incidents occur, they must be informed. 

On an individual level, users should know about phishing and learn how to deal with the situations.

Install Antivirus Software

Antivirus software acts as the first line of protection in recognizing various threats present on your system. They block all unauthorized users from getting access to your device. Make sure you update your antivirus software. Updating the software ensures that the hackers don’t get any loopholes to exploit the vulnerabilities and access your system. 

Use Two Factor Authentication

Implementing the two-factor authentication method is another excellent way to prevent phishing scams. With this method, you’ll receive a code via text message or on-call when you login from any other device. If hackers get your login credentials and attempt to access your information, you’ll be notified. You can immediately change your passwords and can prevent damage. 

Parting Words

Phishing is an emerging cyber-threat that aims to gain access to your financial data. There are various severe outcomes of phishing, like identity theft and reputational damage. An attacker can launch the phishing scam by adopting multiple techniques. They’ll use email phishing if they want to target random people. But, to target a specific group, they use spear-phishing and whaling tactics. 

No matter whatever method they use, you should know how to deal with it. If you have some doubts so, you should use the signs that help in detecting phishing scams. Moreover, you should follow a preventive strategy to protect yourself from phishing. It includes using antivirus software, spam filters, and deploying two-factor authentication. But above all, you should educate yourself and your surrounding to fight against phishing.

Kenneth G Aranda

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