Fast forward 20 years and it’s all very different. The average individual is using a multitude of communication platforms including Email, SMS, WhatsApp, iMessage, Telegram, Slack, Discord, Signal, and Teams to name a few. Email and some forms of mobile messaging are seen as almost a bare minimum for the developed world; in 2020, 99Firms estimated there were 5.59 billion active email accounts globally. That, in the world of phishing and cybercrime, is 5.59 billion targets. And the kicker? They’re reachable in an instant.
Phishing isn’t new. Most people know about it, and many will have been unfortunate enough to have fallen victim to it at least once. The consequences vary; some will attempt to trick you into giving up login credentials on a phoney website, and others will have you download ransomware that can imprison the data and systems of an entire organisation. Regardless, phishing is ubiquitous and frankly, annoying. So, how do we spot it?
Despite all the things above you can look out for, there is one almost sure-fire method to avoid falling victim to a phishing attempt. Avoid clicking links as a rule. Instead navigate directly to the company’s website via your web browser / search engine. Bonus tip: the same rule applies to avoiding bogus phone calls. Provide no personal information, request the caller’s name, and then call the company directly and ask to be put through to the original caller.
Phishing attempts are becoming more sophisticated; would-be hackers and scammers are using better software to avoid grammatical errors, and utilising imagery instead of text to avoid junk filters. If you remain vigilant against every email that arrives, including from email addresses you know (they may have been breached, too!), then your risk is already significantly reduced.
Don’t be complacent, learn to spot the signs, and where possible, avoid clicking links altogether.