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It seems like you're hearing more about phishing attacks or receiving more phishy emails than you did a year ago, you're not imagining it. According to the recent Phishing Activity Trends Report from the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), the total number of unique phishing reports submitted to APWG in January 2008 was 29,284, an increase of over 3,600 reports from the previous month. At that time, the United States moved back to being the top hosting country for password-stealing malicious code (43.39%), after being eclipsed by China in December, as well as #1 in hosting phishing web sites (37.25% of all such web sites).
Newspapers, blogs and RSS feeds carry sad sagas of lost identities and pilfered life savings on an all too frequent basis. Even if you haven't fallen a victim to this ubiquitous crime, improve your odds by following the steps listed below. Remember, the identity, headaches and $$$ you save may be your own.
What is Phishing?
According to the APWG:
"Phishing attacks use both social engineering and technical subterfuge to steal consumers' personal identity data and financial account credentials.
Social-engineering schemes use 'spoofed' e-mails to lead consumers to counterfeit web sites designed to trick recipients into divulging financial data such as credit card numbers, account usernames, passwords and social security numbers. Hijacking brand names of banks, e-retailers and credit card companies, phishers often convince recipients to respond.
Technical subterfuge schemes plant crimeware onto PCs to steal credentials directly, often using Trojan keylogger spyware. Pharming crimeware misdirects users to fraudulent sites or proxy servers, typically through DNS hijacking or poisoning."
How to Protect Yourself
The simplest 1-2-3 advice is: 1. Be wary 2. Stay vigilant 3. Use common sense. For a few specifics, follow this APWG list of tips to prevent being hooked by a phishing attempt:
- Be suspicious of any email with urgent requests for personal financial information.
- Don't use the links in an email, instant message, or chat to get to any web page if you suspect the message might not be authentic or you don't know the sender or user's handle.
- Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal financial information.
- Always ensure that you're using a secure web site when submitting credit card or other sensitive information via your Web browser.
- Remember not all scam sites will try to show the "https://" and/or the security lock. Get in the habit of looking at the address line, too. Were you directed to PayPal? Does the address line display something different like "http://www.gotyouscammed.com/paypal/login.htm?" Be aware of where you are going.
- Consider installing a web browser tool bar to help protect you from known fraudulent web sites. These toolbars match where you are going with lists of known phisher web sites and will alert you.
- Regularly log into your online accounts.
- Regularly check your bank, credit and debit card statements to ensure that all transactions are legitimate.
- Ensure that your browser is up to date and security patches applied .
- Report "phishing" or “spoofed” e-mails.
Read the full article Consumer Advice: How to Avoid Phishing Scams for more details. See also the FTC Consumer Alert: How Not to Get Hooked by a 'Phishing' Scam.
Sharpen and Test Your Skills
There are several excellent tutorials to help you spot phishing attempts and learn how to avoid them, and quizzes to test your awareness of various phishing tactics. You may wish to check out one or more of the following listed here.
Tips, Tutorials & Videos
- Phishing vs. Pharming video (ZDnet)
- Tips to avoid phishing scam (from "LooksTooGoodToBeTrue.com")
- AT&T Online Tutorial
- What you should know about phishing scams (Microsoft)
- Overview of Phishing Scams
- Spotting a Phishing Scam in Your Email
- 10 Tips to Combat Phishing (from Panda Software)
Are your defenses up and your instincts honed?
Cyber criminals, like most criminals, are opportunistic. They seek out vulnerabilities on computers to send spam and phishing emails or try to trick people into providing information that allow criminals to pillage bank accounts and steal identities. Home computers are favorite targets of criminals.
You need to be vigilant by employing the latest in security technology and by employing the same intuition you use in the "offline" world. Use a variety of tactics and technologies to make it as difficult as possible for criminals to access your home computer; and Hone your instincts about when and where it's appropriate to share personal information.
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