This is something that most of us have encountered at some point in our lives. Phishing is the attempt to obtain sensitive information from a person, often by masquerading as a legitimate party. Phishing will often use what is called a phishing lure, which in essence is a form of ‘click baiting’ that make us think that clicking on their links and handing over personal information is urgent and of the utmost importance. Many of us can recognize a fraudulent email or login request and have the wits to simply ignore it. With that said, phishing is still fairly prevalent and is becoming more and more convincing and coercive in 2017. Here, we look at recognizing both basic and complex phishing attacks so you prevent yourself from ever becoming a victim of phishing.

Basic Phishing Attacks

With the majority of basic phishing attacks, the attacker’s job is done as soon as the personal or sensitive information has been handed over. It usually starts with a phishing lure from either a fraudulent email, pop-up, or page that will redirect you to an illegitimate webpage. In most cases, these pages are a very simple but rather convincing copy of the original login pages of well known websites (eg Facebook, Amazon, Google, banks, etc). Attackers will include locally-stored images, CSS and JavaScript to produce almost identical copies of the original page. The difference is the malicious PHP scripts which are sending your username and password directly to the attacker. When the information has been handed over, you will usually be presented with a broken page upon submission or sometimes a loading icon that gives the impression that something is happening. Either way, by the time you hit Submit on the login page it’s already too late; your information has been sent to the attacker.

Complex Phishing Attacks

In essence, complex phishing attacks are almost identical to basic phishing attacks, with the exception of some extra lines of code. After the information has been submitted, the user will be directed to another page or an actual legitimate website. In some cases, you are redirected from the fake login page to the actual login page so that it simply looks like your first attempt to submit your details didn’t work due to a hiccup or a glitch. When the victim attempts a second login, they will find that it works because they are now on the correct website. By this time, unfortunately, it is already too late as the attacker has obtained your login details. Often, a fair amount time can go past before the victim has even noticed that something is wrong and the real problems begin.

So now that we understand how they work, it is important to know how to recognize them and what to do if you ever become a victim of a phishing attack. Fortunately, many of us are able recognize most emails and pop-ups  that are either spam and phishing. Some phishing emails can be convincing though. An example of this is the iTunes or Amazon confirmation email saying that you recently made expensive purchases on items that you have never purchased. If you’re ever faced with emails regarding purchases that you’re not sure about, then simply head over to your online banking to check if any unauthorized purchases were made. Also, be sure to check the email addresses and email content for anything that doesn’t look quite right.

If you do ever find yourself on a login page that you’re not too sure about, then simply check the address bar. If the URL looks wrong or absurd (e.g. goooogle.com) or the website is not served over secure http (i.e. it doesn’t show as Secure | https:// at the beginning of the address bar) then chances are you are on a fake webpage. Simply close the webpage and do not submit any personal information. If you are able to report the fraudulent page to the actual website, then be sure to do so. If you are unfortunate enough to submit your login details, only to realize that you were not directed to the correct page after attempting to login, then it is important to head straight to actual website you were trying to login into and change your password immediately. If you have accounts on other websites that share the same password, then it would be best to change your login details on those sites as well. If you submitted any credit or debit card details on an illegitimate webpage or form, then be sure to contact you bank and cancel your card(s) immediately. You can also check your online banking for any unusual activity.