Phishing is an attempt to criminally and fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details, by appearing as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. eBay, PayPal, and other online banks are common targets.
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It is typically carried out by email or instant messaging and often directs users to enter details at a website, although phone contact has also been used.
What Is Phishing & How It Works?
Phishing is an example of social engineering techniques used to fool users. Attempts to deal with the growing number of reported phishing incidents include legislation, user training, public awareness, and technical measures.
Recent phishing attempts have targeted the customers of banks and online payment services. Social networking sites such as Orkut are also a target of phishing.
Spoofed/Fraudulent e-mails are the most widely used tools to carry out the phishing attack. In most cases, we get a fake e-mail that appears to have come from a Trusted Website. Here the hacker may request us to verify username & password by replying to a given email address.
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TECHNIQUES BEHIND PHISHING ATTACK
1. Link Manipulation
Most methods of phishing use some form of technical deception designed to make a link in an email appear to belong to some trusted organization or spoofed organization. Misspelled URLs or the use of subdomains are common tricks used by phishers, such as this example URL.
Instead of www.microsoft.com
2. Filter Evasion
Phishers have used images instead of text to make it harder for anti-phishing filters to detect text commonly used in phishing emails. This is the reason Gmail or Yahoo will disable the images by default for incoming emails.
How does a Phishing Attack/Scam look like?
As scam artists become more sophisticated, so do their phishing e-mail messages and pop-up windows. They often include official-looking logos from real organizations and other identifying information taken directly from legitimate Web sites. Here is an example of how the phishing scam email looks like
An example of a phishing e-mail message, including a deceptive URL address linking to a scam Web site.
To make these phishing e-mail messages look even more legitimate, the scam artists may place a link in them that appears to go to the legitimate Web site (1), but it actually takes you to a phishing site (2) or possibly a pop-up window that looks exactly like the official site.
These copycat sites are also called “spoofed” Web sites. Once you’re at one of these spoofed sites, you may send personal information to the hackers.
How to identify a fraudulent e-mail?
Here are a few phrases to look for if you think an e-mail message is a phishing scam.
“Verify your account.”
Legitimate sites will never ask you to send passwords, login names, Social Security numbers, or any other personal information through e-mail.
“If you don’t respond within 48 hours, your account will be closed.”
These messages convey a sense of urgency so that you’ll respond immediately without thinking.
“Dear Valued Customer.”
Phishing e-mail messages are usually sent out in bulk and often do not contain your first or last name.
“Click the link below to gain access to your account.”
HTML-formatted messages can contain links or forms that you can fill out just as you’d fill out a form on a Web site. The links that you are urged to click may contain all or part of a real company’s name and are usually “masked,” meaning that the link you see does not take you to that address but somewhere different, usually a scam Web site.
Notice in the following example that resting the mouse pointer on the link reveals the real Web address, as shown in the box with the yellow background. The string of cryptic numbers looks nothing like the company’s Web address, which is a suspicious sign.
So the Bottom line to defend from phishing attack is:
- Never assume that an email is valid based on the sender’s email address.
- A trusted bank/organization such as PayPal will never ask you for your full name and password in a PayPal email.
- An email from trusted organization will never contain attachments or software.
- Clicking on a link in an email is the most insecure way to get to your account.