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Guarding yourself against cyber phishing – a cybersecurity guide

Guarding yourself against cyber phishing – a cybersecurity guide

Published on February 19, 2024 by Martin SlatteryMartin Slattery

In an era dominated by digital connectivity, the threat of cyber phishing looms large, posing risks to individuals, businesses, and organisations globally. This article explains the concept of ‘cyber phishing’ and the importance of safeguarding against it. We will outline some practical steps you can take to protect yourself online and provide real-world examples to help you identify potential phishing attempts.

Understanding cyber phishing

Cyber phishing is a deceptive practice employed by cybercriminals to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card details, or your personal data. The term “phishing” draws an analogy to the traditional method of fishing, where a bait is used to lure unsuspecting targets. In the digital realm, attackers use various tactics to manipulate individuals and exploit their trust.

Some methods that are used by cyber phishers

i. Email phishing – the most prevalent form of phishing involves fraudulent emails that mimic legitimate communications from trustworthy sources. These emails often contain urgent messages, enticing you as the user to click on malicious links or download attachments. Once clicked, these links may lead to fake websites designed to steal your login credentials.

ii. Spear phishing – a more targeted approach, spear phishing involves tailoring attacks to specific individuals or organisations. Attackers gather information about their targets, creating highly personalised messages that appear to be genuine. This makes it challenging for you to discern the fraudulent nature of the communication.

iii. Smishing – short for SMS phishing, smishing involves using text messages to deceive an individual. Cybercriminals send text messages containing links or prompts that lead you as the recipient of the text to disclose sensitive information or download malicious content.

iv. Vishing – voice phishing, or vishing, relies on phone calls to trick an individual into revealing sensitive data. Attackers may impersonate trusted entities, such as your bank or government officials, creating a false sense of urgency to manipulate you as the victim into providing confidential information over the telephone. The advance of AI or artificial intelligence has led to the use of cloned voices of family members in vishing attacks, to fool people into providing personal information or financial credentials.

Psychological tactics that are used by cyber phishers

Cyber phishers leverage psychological tactics to exploit human behaviour and increase the likelihood of their success. Some common strategies used can include:

i. Urgency – phishing emails often create a sense of urgency, prompting you as the individual to act quickly without thorough scrutiny.

ii. Fear – messages may instill fear by claiming that an account of yours is compromised or legal action will be taken unless you undertake immediate action.

iii. Rewards – some phishing attempts promise rewards or prizes to entice you into providing sensitive personal information.

The impact of cyber phishing

Falling victim to a phishing attack can have severe consequences. Stolen credentials may lead to unauthorised access to your personal accounts, financial loss, or identity theft. In the corporate world, these phishing attacks can compromise sensitive business data, disrupt operations, and result in financial losses or reputational damage.

How to protect yourself online

i. Be skeptical of emails – exercise caution when receiving unsolicited emails, especially those urging immediate action or containing suspicious links. Verify the sender’s email address and scrutinise the content for signs of phishing.

ii. Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) – enable MFA whenever possible to add an extra layer of security. MFA requires users to provide additional verification, such as a code sent to their mobile device, along with a password.

iii. Verify website URLs – before clicking on links, hover over them to reveal the actual URL. Be cautious of misspellings, unusual domain names, or additional characters that may indicate a fraudulent website.

iv. Keep software updated – regularly update your operating system, antivirus software, and other applications to patch vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals often exploit outdated software to launch attacks.

v. Educate yourself – stay informed about the latest phishing tactics and techniques. Be aware of the red flags and educate yourself on how to identify phishing attempts.

Examples of Cyber Phishing red flags

i. Generic greetings – legitimate organisations often personalise their communications. Be suspicious of emails that use generic greetings like “Dear Customer” or “Dear User.”

ii. Urgent requests – phishing emails frequently create a sense of urgency, pressuring recipients to act quickly. Be cautious of messages claiming immediate action is required.

iii. Unusual sender addresses – you should check the sender’s email address for authenticity. Phishers may use email addresses that resemble legitimate ones with slight variations.

iv. Unusual URLs – you should hover over links to preview the actual URL. Be wary of links that lead to suspicious or misspelled domain names.

v. Unsolicited attachments – you should avoid opening attachments from unknown or unexpected sources. Cybercriminals often use attachments to deliver malware or other malicious content.

Cyber phishing is an ever-present threat in the digital age, but with ongoing awareness and proactive measures, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of falling victim to these malicious attacks. By staying informed, adopting security best practices, and remaining vigilant online, you can navigate the digital world with confidence and safeguard your personal and financial information against cyber phishing.

Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice. If you are seeking professional advice on any legal matters, you can contact Carroll & O’Dea Lawyers on 1800 059 278 or via our Contact Page and one of our lawyers will be able to assist you.

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