What is Phishing?
Phishing is an attempt to acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication, sometimes also referred to as “password harvesting fishing”.
Phishers send an email message that claims to be from a business or organisation that you may deal with — for example, the helpdesk of your company, a bank, an online payment service, or even a government agency. The message may ask you to “update”, “validate”, or “confirm” your account information. Some phishing emails threaten dire consequences if you do not respond, like terminating your account.
“Phishing scams” typically attempt to lure you into visiting a “phishy” website where your personal or credit card information can be collected for criminal use.
Considerable effort is spent to make you believe that you will connect to a site really belonging to the genuine organisation: the use of subdomains like http://www.yourbank.it.phishers.xy or valid wording in the hyperlink while pointing to a fraudulent URL are common tricks — just move your cursor over “valid wording in the hyperlink” link above and you’ll see what this means.
These links take you to a website that looks just like a legitimate organisation’s site. But it isn’t. It’s a bogus site whose sole purpose is to trick you into divulging your personal information so the operators can steal your identity and run up bills or commit crimes in your name. This form of identity theft is growing quickly on the internet.
Tips to Avoid Becoming a Phishing Victim
- If you get an email or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply. And do not click on the link in the message. Legitimate companies do not ask for this information via email. If you are concerned about your account, contact the organisation mentioned in the email using a telephone number you know to be genuine, or open a new Internet browser session and type in the company’s correct web address yourself. In any case, do not cut and paste the link from the message into your Internet browser — phishers can make links look like they go to one place, but actually send you to a different site.
- Area codes can mislead. Some scammers send an email that appears to be from a legitimate business and ask you to call a phone number to update your account or access a “refund”. Because they use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, the area code you call does not reflect where the scammers really are. If you need to reach an organisation you do business with, call the number on your financial statements or on the back of your credit card. In any case, delete random emails that ask you to confirm or divulge your financial information.
- Use antivirus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall, and update them all regularly. Some phishing emails contain software that can harm your computer or track your activities on the Internet without your knowledge.
- Do not email personal or financial information. Email is not a secure method of transmitting personal information. If you initiate an on-line transaction and want to provide your personal or financial information through an organisation’s website, look for indicators that the site is secure, like a padlock icon on the browser’s status bar or a URL that begins “https:” (the “s” stands for “secure”). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof; some phishers have forged security icons.
- Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from emails you receive, above all if they are “zipped” and need to be opened via a code written in the same mail, regardless of who sent them. Files may contain viruses or other software that can weaken your computer’s security.
For more extensive details and many examples of phishing techniques, see below:
- OnGuard Online – Phishing
- Recognize phishing scams and fraudulent e-mails
- Anti-Phishing Working Group
- If you encounter a phishing attempt … Stop. Don’t click on any links. Don’t open any attachments. Just forward the email to [email protected] and we’ll investigate it.
- If you have fallen victim of a phishing attempt (you gave away your EUI credentials), immediately report to the EUI Helpdesk (during EUI office hours) or [email protected] (outside of EUI office hours).