Before the Internet, if you received a letter from your bank, your insurance agent, or a relative, you could generally trust that it was legitimate.
Once correspondence turned digital, that all changed. Phishing compromises security for a large number of people and businesses each year due to its masterful disguises.
More Sophisticated Than You Think
Phishing is simply the practice of cyber criminals posing as some legitimate person or institution in order to gain access to your information; this can result in identity theft, serious financial strain, or the exposure of sensitive information.
Often, phishing attempts will be personalized. This is a method called spear phishing, and it could look like an email from your boss, or a notice from your bank. Usually, these emails will contain some sort of link or attachment aimed at infecting your computer.
You might be thinking that you’re too discerning to fall for a phishing scheme, even a targeted one, but you might be surprised. In fact, a 2018 study by Intel found that 97% of people could not distinguish a well-crafted phishing email from an authentic one.
Avoid Getting Caught
Though you’ll almost certainly receive a handful of phishing emails this year alone, there are some smart practices you can adopt to avoid falling victim to these nefarious efforts. These practices include employing some healthy skepticism every time you receive an unexpected email, as well as things like:
- Avoiding the most common phishing schemes, like LinkedIn invitations or notices from PayPal
- Checking the URL from which the email was sent very closely
- Never opening attachments or following links from a suspicious email
- Reaching out to sources directly
As long as you take care to be on the look out for phishing, you have a good chance of avoiding any serious consequences.