What is Phishing and How Does it Work?

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By Bill Minahan   |   November 6, 2019   |   0 Comments

What is Phishing?

What is phishing and how does it work? A phishing attack is a cyber attack designed to gain unauthorized access to a network to wreak havoc on an individual or organization.

What is Phishing and How does it work

It works by tricking a victim into opening a message and clicking on a malicious link. Usually, cyber criminals do this by pretending to be a trusted source, service, or person that a victim knows or is associated with.

For example, many attackers pose as commonly used services: Google, Netflix, Amazon, etc. or by impersonating a friend, relative, or co-worker of the victim.

It’s important to remember in 2019, it doesn’t have to be in your inbox. A phishing attack can come through Facebook Messenger, SMS, iMessage, or any other form of direct messaging. It can even occur during a phone call with someone pretending to be your bank, a police office, or a charity organization.

After all, phishing attacks work best when they are convincing and creative.

However, when phishing attacks land in your work email, there is more cause for alarm. If you fall for the phishing attack, you could give the cyber criminal unlimited access to your corporate network.

Unfortunately, no matter how sophisticated your anti-virus software is, phishing emails can still land in your inbox.

Therefore, it’s important to know what phishing attacks are, how they work, and the damage they can do.

How Phishing Attacks Work

Phishing attacks can vary immensely and take on many different forms. However, cyber criminals are usually attempting to get users to do one of two things.

  1. Hand over sensitive information. Attackers try to dupe a victim into handing over sensitive information or credentials through filling out a form, changing their password, or typing in other financial or corporate information on a spoof website or portal. It’s also possible for attackers to monitor keyboard strokes and steal data that way.
  2. Download malware. Attackers try to get you to open an attachment, download a PDF, or click on a malicious link. Then, the victim’s computer is infected with malware. Ransomware is the most common form of malware and has been on the rise since 2013.

A hacker’s ultimate goal is to obtain the most sensitive and lucrative data on your personal device or company network.

What Happens if You Click?

If you click on a malicious link, it can have devasting results for you, your company, and your network. It’s important to know how phishing attacks work and what the consequences are.

For individuals, it includes access to private messages, photos, or contact lists. Additionally, cyber criminals can gain access to your finances which can lead to unauthorized purchases, theft, and identity theft.

However, most often, advanced cyber criminals have their sights set on a bigger goal such as a corporation or government entity. They use phishing attacks on an individual to gain a foothold into a larger network.

If an employee is tricked into clicking a link, it can result in the installation of malware within the company’s network and unauthorized access to sensitive data.

Organizations who experience data breaches endure severe financial losses along with declining market share, reputation, and consumer trust. Read more about the effects of cyber attacks on businesses here.

Depending on the scale of the attack, phishing attacks can put a company out of business.

How to Stop Phishing Attacks from Working

You can’t stop phishing attacks, but you can make it less likely they land in your inbox by using anti-virus software.

Anti-virus software scans the files in your inbox and automatically removes any known malware. However, anti-virus software isn’t bullet-proof. Cyber criminals create new, immune, strains of malware to keep up.

Even if phishing attacks do land in your inbox, you can stop yourself from clicking on them. If you learn how to spot a phishing attack when you see it, then you can decrease the likelihood your attacker’s plan will work.

However, if you do fall victim to phishing, there are measures you can take to ensure no damage occurs. For instance, content filtering is software that restricts your access to sites that are dangerous. That way, even if you click on a link, it’ll block spam sites that would otherwise download malware onto your devices.

Content filtering is affordable security software that can protect you from phishing and more. If you aren’t using content filtering and would like to, we offer free consultations and quotes.

Protect Yourself From Phishing

Despite the new sophistication of phishing attacks, there are still signs that reveal their spoofs. Even if you know what phishing is and how it works, it’s important you familiarize yourself with what an attack looks like.

Understanding what a phishing attack is, how to spot one, and what to do if you click on one, can help you mitigate the damage they can cause.

At aNetworks, we recommend anti-virus software, content filtering, and online cyber security awareness training for employees and individuals. We spend so much time online, the data on our networks is inevitably sensitive. We need to protect it.

Unfortunately, phishing is only one attack that cyber criminals use against us. To protect yourself, you must know the attacker’s methods and how to avoid them.

Read more about the cyber awareness training we offer here.

Sign Up for Cyber Awareness Training