Most of us are aware of spam, and while we may think it’s just an annoyance, what’s really dangerous about it is the fact that most spam are phishing attempts. Phishing is when cybercriminals attempt to fraudulently acquire your personal information, such as passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy person or business in electronic communications, such as email, texts or instant messages.
Criminals have long known there’s a sucker born every minute. In fact, more than 9 million households have had at least one member who gave up their information to phishers. And in the first half of 2012, these cybercriminals netted over $680 million which may be one of the reasons that McAfee Labs™ saw the average number of phishing sites found each day, increase by 70% between January and September of 2012. They also found 3-1/2 times more phishing URLs than spam URLs for the first time ever. This means spam is losing favor (and flavor) to phishing as cybercriminals are tossing out wide phish nets.
Here’s a graphic that explains how phishing works:
There are no depleted phish stocks in the sea of scamming, so to protect yourself from phishing you should:
Be suspicious of emails that ask for personal or financial information. Most banks and legitimate businesses will not send you an email asking you to provide this type of information.
If you suspect that an email or chat message may not be authentic, or you don’t recognize the sender, do not click any links included in the message.
Check your bank, credit and debit account statements regularly for any unauthorized transactions. If you notice any suspicious or unfamiliar transactions, contact your bank and/or card issuer immediately.
Make sure to keep your browser and operating system up to date and install any necessary security patches.
Use comprehensive security software, like McAfee All Access, on all your devices and make sure they include a safe search tool that identifies risky websites in email, chat, social networking sites and search engine results to protect you from phishing.
Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! (Disclosures)