A common type of cybersecurity threat is phishing. Nobody wants to become a phishing victim, but it can happen to just about anyone. One of the ways to protect yourself from phishing is taking a proactive, preventive approach to your personal cybersecurity.
What is Phishing?
Phishing is an increasingly popular social engineering tactic cybercriminals use to attack victims. During a phishing attack, threat actors send fraudulent messages to victims, hoping to convince them to share personal information, such as login credentials or bank account numbers. The phishing messages cybercriminals send most often come in the form of texts or emails. Messages typically contain a link to a malicious website or a malicious attachment.
The cybercriminal sending these messages hopes users will click on a suspicious link, fill out a fraudulent form online, reply with personal info or download an infected attachment. Phishing attacks can open you up to all sorts of issues.
Your social media accounts can become hacked, your banking information can be recorded or your entire identity can be stolen. Although cyber identity theft, also called synthetic identity theft, is different from traditional identity theft, it can be just as damaging to the victim.
How to Prevent Phishing Attacks: 4 Tips
Here are four tips to help you learn how to prevent phishing attacks on your devices.
1. Identify Phishing Signs
Here are some giveaways to let you know you’re experiencing a phishing attempt:
- Messages are sent by unknown users.
- Some story is involved, such as someone needing money or your login information for a specific reason.
- Fraudulent messages appear to come from companies you know and trust.
- Criminals ask for your bank account information, social security number (SSN), credit card numbers or other sensitive, personally identifiable information (PII)
- Coupon offerings for free or discounted goods and/or services
- Messages ask you to update your payment information for security purposes.
Always keep your eyes peeled for these signs, as identifying them can help you avoid becoming a phishing victim.
2. Keep Everything Up to Date
Another way to prevent phishing attacks is to keep your software, applications and devices updated with the latest version or operating system (OS). Every software update a company puts out is meant to patch vulnerabilities in your system.
Cybercriminals exploit these vulnerabilities to launch attacks on their targets. Therefore, updating your software and other digital assets is of the utmost importance.
3. Use Popular Cybersecurity Tools
Several cybersecurity tools are available to help you prevent phishing attacks. Here is a short list, as there are too many to name:
- Anti-virus software
- Anti-malware software
- Free, anti-phishing browser add-ons
Installing these tools on your devices will help protect you while online.
4. Change Passwords Regularly
Finally, you must change your passwords often to stay ahead of would-be cybercriminals. Virtually every online account requires a password, so consider using a password manager to keep all your passwords in one place.
There are a few characteristics that make some passwords stronger than others. For example, use unique, hard-to-guess passwords containing capital letters, numbers and special characters. These tips will help you build strong passwords to prevent future hacks.
Why is Phishing Prevention Important?
Anyone who uses the internet or a phone can become the victim of a phishing attack. All it takes is one accidental click on a link or download of a file to infect your system. Phishing in and of itself is bad, but the repercussions of these online attacks cause even more of a headache.
You’d need to file a fraud report to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), send a claim to the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) and try to recover any money or data you lost due to the attack.
Protect Yourself From Phishing Attacks
No user wants to become a cybercriminal’s next victim, but it does happen. The people most vulnerable to cyberattacks often practice poor cybersecurity hygiene by not following best practices. Use the tips outlined above to protect yourself from the increasingly threatening cybersecurity and phishing attack landscape.
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