Phishing scams are becoming increasingly popular and more sophisticated. Recent years have seen some major security breaches across various companies, and they are no joke. Some very sensitive client information was leaked, including birthdays, email and physical addresses, credit card information, and more.
Those leaks created a perfect opportunity for phishing scams and made many people vulnerable to cyber attacks.
There are many ways to ensure online privacy and security, like relying on a VPN and regularly changing your passwords, but the best tool is knowledge.
So, let’s take a closer look at phishing scams and figure out how to improve overall cybersecurity.
Common Phishing Scams
First thing’s first – what is phishing? In short, it’s the act of using fraudulent emails to extract either money or information from a person.
This means that most phishing scams will try to collect information about your bank accounts, credit cards, passwords, PINs, etc.
Most phishing scams are conducted over email, and while they were pretty obvious in the past, they’ve grown to be more sophisticated. Many internet users have encountered emails from Nigerian princes asking for favors, and it is the perfect example of a phishing scam.
However, phishing scams today are much more believable. Hackers are known for spoofing the sender address and appearing to be a reputable source while asking for sensitive information.
They’re also known for providing links to fake websites that seem legit. It might look like your bank or any social media website. A lot of people click on them and enter their login credentials, thus revealing them to the cybercriminals.
Trojans, spyware, or malware can easily be installed on the device if you click on a malicious link or attachment. This is how most people fall victim to phishing scams.
Hackers don’t rely solely on email, however, and are known for initiating any type of communication. Some are known for calling and impersonating a reputable company, all the while trying to gather valuable information.
What Exactly is Sextortion?
Sextortion is an increasingly popular form of a phishing scam. It is usually an email demanding a ransom, be it in the form of money or sexual images, or even sexual favors. It often states that the hacker’s gotten into your computer has evidence of you visiting pornographic sites, and has collected compromising images or videos of you. This is followed by a threat to send it out to your contacts.
In any case, the purpose of such email is to scare you into immediately paying whatever sum is required.
To make matters worse (and more believable), the hacker would also include the user’s real password and their list of contacts. The password serves to show that the hacker’s genuinely broken into the device, while the list of contacts is a threat that the compromising images would be sent to them.
While all this might sound scary and would force most people to comply with the hacker’s demands, most of the time there’s no reason to panic. If what the email said was true, it would include screenshots showing the validity of their claims.
The problem is that most people decide to pay up just in case. Even if they know it’s basically impossible for the hacker to have any compromising images, the fear prevents them from thinking straight.
How to Deal with Phishing Scams
The first thing that a user should do as soon as they get an email from a scammer that includes their real password is to change the said password.
About 59% of people use the same passwords across different accounts and platforms. That means hackers could easily get into their company or bank account.
In case a user’s received a suspicious email from their bank, for example, which asks for sensitive information, it’s best not to respond. To ensure the validity of the email, users should check for any mistakes.
If the logo doesn’t seem right, or there are spelling mistakes, or something seems off, it’s most likely a scam. Most companies try to ensure everything in their emails is 100% correct. So if something is not as it should be, it’s good to be suspicious
The best course of action, in this case, would be to call the company that the mail appears to come from. Contacting them would remove any doubts or questions.
In the case the hacker really has compromising evidence, contacting the authority is the only choice. Reporting cybercrime can be done through several government authorities, and it’s one of the most important steps to take.
How to Ensure Better Online Security
Anyone can become a victim of cybercrime. Most people have the misconception that it’s only large corporations, politicians, or celebrities that are commonly targeted.
However, it’s actually regular people and SMBs that are the most popular targets. That’s because they often don’t have adequate cybersecurity measures in place since they think they’re not a target. It’s a vicious cycle.
There are three essential steps to take to ensure better security. They are neither pricey, nor do they require any extensive IT knowledge, and they include:
- Using password managers
- Getting a VPN
- Installing antimalware software
Password managers allow users to store all their passwords in one place and keep them secured. Most managers can generate strong and unique passwords, and users never have to worry about forgetting them.
It’s also crucial to use a VPN. The majority of internet traffic comes from mobile phones, but people haven’t stopped using PCs, tablets, and other devices. So getting a VPN for multiple devices will ensure a safe and encrypted internet connection that offers security in anonymity.
The best antimalware software detects and gets rid of any malicious or suspicious files. It can also protect every device from Trojans, viruses, spyware, ransomware, and more.
While phishing scams are becoming more and more common, most users can stay safe online if they are careful and have all the necessary cybersecurity measures in place.