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How to Spot Phishing Attacks

Knowing how to spot phishing attacks can help protect yourself and your business from being duped by hackers.

But first, to spot a phishing attempt, you need to know what phishing is. A phishing attack is where cybercriminals send fraudulent messages to unsuspecting cyber users to trick them into revealing sensitive information. Phishing could lead to loss of revenue, leak of consumer data, harm your reputation, and loss of business.

Luckily, there are ways to spot a phishing attack. Below are common phishing signs to look out for in emails and websites. Let us dive right in!

1. Check the grammar. Poorly written sentences with grammatical errors, punctuation, and spelling mistakes can indicate a phishing email. Since phishing is a numbers game, cybercriminals do not pay attention to spelling or grammar. The more emails they send out, the higher chances of an unsuspecting victim falling for a scam.

2. Inconsistency in email addresses, domains, and URLs. Phishing emails contain links to fake websites or legitimate websites under the control of a hacker. Fake sites that resemble legitimate sites- product images, descriptions, payment options, are used to attack unsuspecting shoppers. Ensure you double-check before clicking on links to unfamiliar websites. Check if the domain in the sender’s email address is an exact match for the company. You can also hover the mouse cursor over the link to see if the URL in the text of an email matches the actual link address.

3. Urgent messages. Attackers create a sense of urgency to trick you into clicking a phishing link or sending sensitive information. Phishing websites often use language with a sense of urgency that you won’t find on legitimate websites for banks, shipping companies, and other reputable institutions. The phishing messages create urgency by using fear, excitement, or panic to create an emotional response that will force you to act immediately.

4. Malicious attachments. Malicious email attachments pose a threat to your data, device, network, customers, and business. Hackers use attachments to install malware that can steal your passwords, encrypt your data and lock your device. If you cannot verify the source of an email, avoid clicking or downloading the files attached as they may contain malware.

Related: 6 Common Types of Malware that you should know

5. Extortion emails. Typically involves cybercriminals demanding crypto payments in exchange for not sending allegedly incriminating or embarrassing information, photos, or video footage of you to your employer, friends, and family members. Usually, the hackers claim to have exploited some vulnerability on your device to gain access to your camera and have inappropriate video recordings of you. They prey on your fear of damaging your reputation to get you to comply with their demands.

6. Request to access resources. This type of phishing attack involves an attacker trying to trick you into giving them access details to your device or IT system. An email is sent to you from an address masquerading as a work colleague or your boss requesting login details. Once they gain access to these details, they can alter or delete sensitive data or search for vulnerabilities to exploit in your network system.

How do you avoid getting phished?

The best approach to prevent phishing attacks is to adopt multiple layers of security that include:

  1. Conduct employee awareness and training programs to help your employees identify phishing emails and adopt best email practices.
  2. Install Anti-spam and anti-malware software to spot phishing attacks and block emails from reaching users.
  3. Use email authentication protocols that include SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to prevent spoofing and impersonation.
  4. Adopt email security software to scan links and attachments in your emails and prevent access if deemed malicious.

With these tips to spot a phishing email and additional steps to protect yourself from phishing attacks, you will be sure not to get caught in the phishing net.

The Author

Janet M.

Janet is a digital media specialist with 4+ years of experience in technical writing for the web hosting industry. She is also passionate about creative writing and storytelling. She combines her technical knowledge with her creativity to produce engaging content that informs and captivates readers across various platforms.

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