What is Phishing?

Phishing has become a widely used tool for hackers to gain computer users’ personal information. Although phishing has been around longer than many other identity stealing techniques, computer users continue to get duped by phishers.

The goal of phishing is to steal a person’s private information. Phishing uses email and instant messenger services as vehicles to gain access to such information. The process works by sending a fraudulent email to a computer user with a link within the email. When the user clicks on the link they are brought to a site that requires them to type in their personal information.

The problem with phishing is that the link in the email brings the user to a site that is designed to appear legitimate, when it is really a malicious site looking to steal information. Online banking sites, eBay, and PayPal have all been impersonated in phishing scams. Even if the website looks like your regular banking site, it may simply be a phishing site in disguise.

Drying Up a Phisher’s Resources

Since phishing has been around as long as it has, computer experts have come up with a number of tips to avoid falling into a phisher’s trap. First and foremost, these experts identify education as the key to making phishing attacks obsolete. If computer users are educated on the capabilities of phishers, they are far less likely to fall into their traps.

Keep in mind the following the next time you are surfing the Internet:

* When you receive an email from a company claiming to be your bank, eBay, PayPal, or some other related business, be careful what links you click on. Instead of clicking on the link (which may be disguised by a fraudulent hyperlink), manually type in the address of the company of financial institution. This way you won’t be inadvertently redirected by a malicious link.

* Reply to the suspicious email to see if it is a legitimate address. If they are who they say they are, they’ll provide some kind of customer service for you to check in and make sure everything is on the up and up.

* Look for specific wording in the email. For instance, some companies will state the person’s user name in the email to verify they are who they claim to be. An email that addresses the user as “Company X Customer” may be from a phisher.

* Pay attention to the account information given in the email. Sometimes a bank will give part of your account number in the message. One tip when looking for an account number: Look to see if they offer the last few digits, rather than the first few. The first numbers in an account are oftentimes the same for all account holders at a particular bank institution.

Don’t Take the Bait

Phishing occurs more on Internet Explorer than any other web browser. Switching to a web browser such as Mozilla Firefox can help you avoid phishing in the first place. Fortunately for all computer users, most browsers have become wise to the practices of phishers. This has led them to put in place antiphishing measures. If you come to a website and a message pops up that asks you if you’re sure the site is legitimate, you know yout browser is looking out for you.

Phishing is an age-old problem in the rather young online world. Become educated about phishing and you’ll avoid being lured in by a hacker.

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