What is Phishing?

Phishing describes the many different types of activities, which are typically illegal, that attempt to lure victims into divulging sensitive information through an electronic medium. Phone calls from strangers impersonating a familiar individual are a basic execution of this tactic. However, the concept and techniques involved have become much more complicated in modern digital environments. Users accessing online communications through computers and phones are susceptible to phishing attempts even if they use spam filters and practice other good internet safety practices.


Fraudulent Links and Attachments

Most experienced internet users know not to click on any link they stumble upon on a website or message, but it’s still an easy mistake to make. Links used in phishing scams can be embedded in the text or image of their message. They are often presented in a way that appears to direct the user to a known or established destination, like the website for a popular brand. However, the fraudulent links will instead direct the user to a different site that is designed to steal personal information or plant malware on the device. Likewise, attachments found in these emails often contain malicious software that can steal data and cause performance problems for the computer.

Impersonation of Service Providers

For modern businesses, impersonation of service providers and suppliers can be a serious problem. This is particularly true for companies that embrace shared digital communications platforms and software solutions, as these are becoming priority targets for scammers, according to Forbes. Social networking sites are also high-risk environments, which only further motivates company leaders to limit or ban their use in the workplace.

Targeted Phishing Attempts

Targeted or interactive scams are among the most precise and dangerous of all phishing techniques. Instead of a generic message with a suspicious link, these messages don’t contain anything suspicious at all. Instead, the perpetrator users intimate knowledge of a person’s contacts at home or work to create a convincing false impression. These attempts are usually designed to pull the victim into an eventual dialogue, usually through text conversation, which they try to spin to get personal information. Users should always verify the recipient’s identity before sending sensitive details to an unfamiliar phone number or email address.

Leveraging Data to Limit Scams

One of the biggest challenges posed by cyber criminals is their ability to consistently adapt and improve their tactics to reach their victims. To address the rising prevalence of phishing attempts, many cybersecurity professionals have turned to data science as a tool for developing effective defenses. Applied machine learning techniques can help automated defenses built into computers and browser software identify dangerous websites more reliably so they can warn the user to avoid the destination. Email and digital service providers can also leverage data to improve their spam filters, sender verification process, and content filter.

Phishing may not be a scary-sounding word, but it has frightening consequences for people who get caught in a scam. Someone stealing credit card information isn’t necessarily a disaster, but the theft of identity or other personal information can be a serious challenge that takes years to address.