Cyber-crime is an unfortunate reality of our connected, tech-centric world, and phishing attacks are one of the most common methods for stealing personal information. A phishing attack often begins with an email, website, or social media message that seems to come from a reliable source, like a financial institution or retailer. Phishing attacks may target individuals, or large organizations that store personal information. The University of Calgary recently endured a phishing attack, and paid a $20,000 ransom after hackers encrypted its email server. No personal information or university research was lost in the attack, but unfortunately incidents like this have become a frequent topic of conversation in the world of web design.
The good news is that you can take concrete steps to lower your exposure to potential phishing attacks, whether you operate a business or simply want to protect your own personal data.
Phishing ABCs: The Telltale Signs of a Phishing Attack
The University of Calgary is far from the only large organization to experience a phishing attack in recent years. Seagate, Mansueto Ventures, and Snapchat are just a few of the big names to endure phishing attacks recently. There are plenty of common threads in these attacks to help you identify phishing attempts in the future:
- Deceptive phishing is the most common type of attack, and often starts with an email designed to look like it comes from an official source. The email (or website) will often request you to verify or update account information, but remember that no reputable institution will ever request account information by email.
- One of the reasons that phishing attacks work so well is that they are very quick. In a major survey of 2016 cyber-crime, 81.9 percent of successful phishing attacks took only minutes to obtain the victim’s data.
- Some phishing attacks steal information by installing malware on the victim’s computer, by way of an email attachment or another download.
- Like deceptive phishing emails, malware attacks are disguised to look like a perfectly normal attachment or download from a reputable source. They’ll often target data sharing services like Google Docs and Dropbox, where it’s normal for users to download attachments.
- Phishing attacks target social media, too. Social media phishing attacks are often launched from fake pages that claim to represent customer service for the company in question.
Protect Your Personal Information: How to Spot and Avoid a Phishing Attack
The success of a phishing attack depends on deception, and cyber-criminals have unfortunately become very good at making attacks look official. So the best way to avoid phishing attacks is to learn how to spot them before you provide any personal information, and practice safe browsing habits wherever you go online.
- While typos are a hazard of writing online, it’s very rare for an official email to have multiple mistakes. Fortunately, cyber-criminals aren’t always experts on grammar or spelling. If a message is full of errors, tread carefully.
- Many phishing attempts try to drive you to a specific URL to steal information, but the URL provided in the link may not match the actual destination. You can view the real URL by clicking “inspect” or “properties” on most browsers. If the two URLs don’t match, don’t click.
- If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Phishing scams often make over-the-top promises (or threats) to motivate people to click.
- One more time, for the record. A financial institution, insurance company, retailer, or government department will never request personal information through email, or other unsecured channels.
- Password security is a huge part of keeping your personal information safe online, and it’s actually pretty simple to create secure passwords. It’s a minimal time investment for a major security boost.
- For businesses, website maintenance is also a big part of the security equation. Phishing tactics are constantly evolving, and secure web design helps your site keep up.
Emphasize Web Design Services in Calgary
The best thing you can do to prevent phishing attacks is to always take an extra moment to verify any source that requests your personal information. Many large organizations have to keep customer data on hand to function, but they’ll only ask you to provide or update that information through secure channels. Protecting your personal information is more than worth a bit of extra vigilance.
Security is a major priority for our team at Emphasize Design of Calgary, and a big part of our web design philosophy. Build a better, more secure online presence for your business, starting with a website design quote from our team.