Is it fishing or phishing?

Have you ever been told to watch out for phishing emails? No, it doesn’t mean a trout is about to fly out of your screen and attach to you like a face hugger from Alien. It is in fact something quite different but equally as scary. We are here to give you the phacts (get it?) about phishing and teach you how to protect yourself from these pesky things.

What is phishing?

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty. By definition, phishing is a cyber attack that often uses email (but it can be text or Twitter and Facebook DMs) as a way of infecting your computer with malware. Attackers that use phishing attacks are likely to be after your bank account details or account login information. The aim of the game is to trick you into believing that the message is something you want or need. It could be a request from your bank to change your password. Or a message from someone in your company telling you to download an attachment.

If we set aside the joke earlier, the name does in fact come from the word fishing. It is given this because the email is a bit like a fishing hook tossed into the water hoping you will bite.

Phishing is one of the oldest types of cyberattack and it is still widely used globally. With each year, phishing techniques are becoming more sophisticated. 

How can I spot a phishing email?

Scammers often update their tactics, but there are some signs that will help you recognize a phishing email or text message.

The most common we’ve seen:

  • claim there’s a problem with your account or your payment information
  • say they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts
  • say you’re eligible to register for a government refund
  • want you to click on a link to make a payment
  • say you must confirm some personal information
  • offer a coupon for free stuff
  • include a fake invoice

An example of one could be an email from HSBC that tells you there has been a security breach and that you need to change your password. When you click the link they provide you will land on a fake, but very convincing, page that imitates the look of the HSBC banking website. When you input your details it will be able to track them. Now the hackers have your login and can do as they please with your account and your hard earned cash!

How do I protect myself from phishing attacks?

Your email provider will probably filter out a large proportion of phishing attacks but it won’t protect you from all of them. So how can you take steps to protect yourself from the dreaded phishing attack? The simple answer is… be careful. As they said in the X-Files “trust no one”. 

Here are some simple tips to help you separate the good from the bad.

  • Be cautious about all communications you receive. And yes, we mean all of them! If you are suspicious of anything you receive, do not respond. Delete it. Forget about it.
  • Do not click on any links in the suspicious email or text, and definitely do not open any attachments.
  • Do not enter personal information in a pop-up screen. No real company out there will ask you for this in a pop up!
  • Install a phishing filter on your email and also on your web browser. These filters will not keep out all phishing messages, but they will reduce the number of phishing attempts.

And last but not least, if you think you’ve clicked on something dodgy (we’ve all done it), you can download our free app and scan your phone for malware. We are on Android and iPhone. It is time to be cyber safe!

Don’t forget we are now on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram! Be sure to follow us for security tips and all the latest privacy news.