Phishing is the attempt to trick a user into handing over their sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, to be used for malicious reasons. The attempt is usually disguised as a trustworthy entity in either a email or a webpage which the user is directed towards.
More often than not, a phishing attempt will start off as an email to the user pretending to be from the trustworthy entity. In fact the email will be spoofed or sent from a similar email address to try and trick the user. The contents of the email will usually be created in such a way as to convince the user that it is a legitimate contact from the trustworthy source and will try to convince the user that they need to follow a weblink to provide or reset their login details.
If the user follows this link and provides their details, they have given the people running the phishing scam their username and password.
Keeping yourself safe from Phishing Scams
There are a number of simple steps you can follow to keep yourself safe from phishing scams:
- Always check the email address an email comes from, paying close attention to the domain name. Here is an example of a phishing attempt which is trying to spoof the school's email domain name. Notice that it uses a very similar domain name!
- Pay close attention to the wording and grammar of the email. More often than not there will be grammatical errors in the email received. This should set off alarm bells for you too!
- If you receive an email which directs you to open a link to another site, hovering over that link will often display where it is going to take you before you click on it. Pay attention to the web address (URL) and if it is not what you would expect, don't click it! For example, this PDF attachment from a phishing scam email is trying to direct me to 000webhostapp.com This is certainly nothing to do with the school as all our domains end with queenmargarets.com
- If you are on a website and it is asking you to enter your account details, pay close attention to the web address of the site and the SSL information. The first image here shows a fake website trying to trick you into entering your login details. Notice that the domain name does not match the site it is trying to be (dropbox.com) and although it uses a SSL security certificate, it does not provide details of the company who purchased it.
Compare this to the legitimate dropbox.com site and you can see that they appear at first glance to be very similar, however the domain names do not match and, perhaps more obvious, dropbox.com use a verified SSL certificate which displays in the browser that you are visiting Dropbox, Inc (US).
These few checks will help you to stay safe whilst browsing the Internet; but remember that you should only provide your username and password and/or credit card information if you are 100% sure that the site asking you for it is legitimate and who you think it is!