Phishing attacks attempt to steal sensitive information through emails, websites, text messages, or other forms of electronic communication that often look to be official communication from legitimate companies or individuals.
The information that phishers (as the cybercriminals behind phishing attacks are called) attempt to steal can be user names and passwords, credit card details, bank account information, or other credentials. Attackers can then use stolen information for malicious purposes, such as hacking, identity theft, or stealing money directly from bank accounts and credit cards. Phishers can also sell the information in cybercriminal underground marketplaces.
How Phishing Works
Phishing attacks are scams that often use social engineering bait or lure content. For example, during tax season, bait content involves tax-filing announcements that attempt to lure you into providing your personal information such as your Social Security number or bank account information.
Legitimate-looking communication, usually email, that links to a phishing site is one of the most common methods used in phishing attacks. The phishing site typically mimics sign-in pages that require users to input login credentials and account information. The phishing site then captures the sensitive information as soon as the user provides it, giving attackers access to the information.
Another common phishing technique is the use of emails that direct you to open a malicious attachment, for example a PDF file. The attachment often contains a message asking you to provide login credentials to another site such as email or file sharing websites to open the document. When you access these phishing sites using your login credentials, the attacker now has access to your information and can gain additional personal information about you.
Phishing Trends & Techniques
In this scam, the attacker attempts to lure you with an email stating that you have an outstanding invoice from a known vendor or company and provides a link for you to access and pay your invoice. When you access the site, the attacker is poised to steal your personal information and funds.
You are asked to provide a credit card or other personal information so that your payment information can be updated with a commonly known vendor or supplier. The update is requested so that you can take delivery of your ordered goods. Generally, you may be familiar with the company and have likely done business with them in the past, but you are not aware of any items you have recently purchased from them.
Tax-themed phishing scams
A common IRS phishing scams is one in which an urgent email letter is sent indicating that you owe money to the IRS. Often the email threatens legal action if you do not access the site in a timely manner and pay your taxes. When you access the site, the attackers can steal your personal credit card or bank information and drain your accounts.
Another frequently-used phishing scam is one in which an attacker sends a fraudulent email requesting you to open or download a document, often one requiring you to sign in.
Phishing emails that deliver other threats
Phishing emails can be very effective, and so attackers can use them to distribute ransomware through links or attachments in emails. When run, the ransomware encrypts files and displays a ransom note, which asks you to pay a sum of money to access your files.
We have also seen phishing emails that have links to tech support scam websites, which use various scare tactics to trick you into calling hotlines and paying for unnecessary “technical support services” that supposedly fix contrived device, platform, or software problems.
Call us at 360-321-1122 or 360-321-TECH (8324) if you have any doubts about an email you receive, or if you think you may have been a target.