What is phishing?
Phishing is a type of cyber attack in which scammers use fake emails, websites, or other digital communication to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial details.
Evolution of phishing
The term phishing was first coined in the mid-1990s by hackers who wanted to steal AOL accounts. They sent messages to AOL users asking them to update their billing information, leading them to a fake website that looked like the real AOL site.
Since then, phishing has evolved and become more sophisticated, with attackers using social engineering techniques and advanced technology to trick users.
What does phishing look like?
Spoofed emails or websites that mimic legitimate ones.
Social engineering tactics such as urgency or fear-mongering.
Requests for sensitive information such as passwords or credit card numbers in order to reset an account or take advantage of a new offer.
Links or attachments that contain malware or ransomware.
Benefits of using phishing for ethical hacking
While phishing is typically associated with cybercrime, there are some benefits of using it in a business context, in order to protect your site and company from malicious attacks. These include,
Phishing simulations can help educate employees about cybersecurity best practices. They can also help you to understand what more needs to be done to protect your site from phishing attacks targeting employees.
Website owners can use phishing techniques to test their own security measures and identify vulnerabilities. They can hire ethical hackers to do this for them also or through a bug bounty program.
Law enforcement agencies can use phishing to catch cybercriminals and prevent further attacks.
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Examples of phishing
Some real-life examples of phishing attacks include,
A fake email from a bank asking the user to update their account information on a fraudulent website. These details can then be used to access the victims online banking.
A message from a social media platform claiming that the user has violated community guidelines and needs to log in to avoid account suspension. Their account details can then be used to hack and take down their site, or hold it for ransom (a.k.a., ransomware).
A pop-up message on a website claiming that the user's computer has a virus and needs to download a program to fix it.
How to prevent phishing attacks
To prevent phishing attacks, website and business owners should follow these best practices as much as possible,
Train employees on how to identify phishing emails and websites. This is usually done through training videos and tests, and by sending out company phishing tests, to see how many employees click on it.
Implement multi-factor authentication for login credentials.
Use SSL/TLS encryption to protect sensitive data.
Regularly update software and security patches, as well as third party apps which can be most vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Monitor website traffic for suspicious activity.
The best way to prevent phishing attacks is to make a website with in-built, robust website security, for the ultimate protection.