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Don’t get hooked: Tips to identify and avoid phishing attempts

Blog Img Security Phishing iStock 184016998

Phishing is currently the most common form of cybercrime – a tactic designed to trick users into divulging sensitive information, often through deceptive emails, fake websites, or disguised communication from seemingly familiar sources. As a result, those who fall victim to these schemes often experience compromised personal data, financial loss, or even identity theft. Understanding how to identify and thwart these malicious attempts can therefore go a long way in ensuring the safety and security of your private information. Here are a few tips to steer clear of common phishing attacks online.

Think twice before clicking

Phishing attempts predominantly come in the form of deceptive emails or text messages, often harboring malicious links that entice users to click. These links typically result in the accidental download of malware, such as ransomware and keyloggers, designed to surreptitiously breach your system and wreak havoc on your personal data.

It’s therefore important to exercise caution when receiving an “urgent” email or SMS requesting sensitive information. Be wary of the telltale signs: poor spelling and grammar, generic greetings (i.e.  “Dear Customer” rather than addressing you personally), unexpected attachments or links, and an unusual or misspelled contact address. Hovering over a link without clicking may also reveal its true destination, helping you ensure the authenticity of the message.

Verify websites before logging in

Phishers often create fraudulent websites that mimic legitimate portals, aiming to trick users into providing their private information. A simple way of identifying these sites is by scrutinizing the website’s URL. If it’s legitimate, it will usually have a straightforward, recognizable address – while phishing websites often incorporate slight variations or misspellings.

Additionally, check for a security certificate. Secure, encrypted websites will typically use “https://” in their URL, accompanied with a padlock icon in the address bar. These visual cues usually point to a reduced risk of data interception, and are often employed by legitimate, trustworthy platforms.

Verify contacts before sending confidential data

Whether it’s a request for financial details, login credentials, or personal information, cybercriminals will often pose as colleagues or close friends to exploit a user’s trust. It’s thus important to confirm the legitimacy of your recipients before divulging any confidential data, typically through other known, secure channels. This may be a previously established email address, a verified phone number, or better yet – confirming with them in person, if possible.

Be sure to avoid using the contact details provided in the original message, as this could lead to further phishing attempts.

Ditch the passwords

As cyber threats continue to evolve, the conventional use of passwords has proven increasingly insufficient as a security measure. The burden of remembering numerous, complex passwords typically leads to the creation of weak and easy-to-guess ones, posing greater security risks in the long run. Forgotten passcodes and the subsequent need for frequent resets could also result in significant losses in productivity for individuals and organizations.

“Passwordless” security options have thus gained traction as more secure, user-friendly alternatives, such as the use of login tokens or biometric verification. These methods could significantly mitigate the risk of falling victim to phishing attempts, as they rely on the possession of physical devices or unique biological characteristics – making them inherently more resistant to cybercrime tactics that exploit password vulnerabilities.

Update your security

Finally, it’s important to regularly update your security measures. As cybersecurity threats dynamically change, software vulnerabilities are also continually identified and patched by developers. Failing to keep your security software, operating systems, and applications up to date leaves your devices susceptible to exploitation by malicious actors.

On top of routine updates, consider incorporating anti-phishing add-ons to your web browser. These extensions or plugins help scrutinize websites for potential phishing indicators, offering an extra layer of online protection. They may compare visited sites against known phishing databases, detect malicious links, and issue warnings to users before they navigate to unsafe pages. This way, users can have a much more proactive approach to keeping these deceptive schemes at bay.

Looking to boost your security? PredictiveIT offers competitive, enterprise-grade managed cybersecurity services to ensure your data is kept safe from hackers, phishers, and the latest forms of cybercrime. Keep these threats at bay and get in touch with our experts today.