Phishing attacks are one of the most common ways for cybercriminals to steal your information. In fact, it’s estimated that over 90% of data breaches start with a phishing attack. And while there are many different types of phishing attacks, they all have one goal in mind: to get you to click on a malicious link or open an infected email attachment. So, what are the 7 most common types of phishing attacks? And how can you protect yourself from them? Read on to find out.
1. Emails containing malicious attachments or links
This is the most common type of phishing attack because it’s so easy to execute. All a cybercriminal has to do is send you an email with either a malicious attachment or hyperlink and their job is done. And if they can make the email look like it came from one of your contacts, even better! This type of phish usually targets your workplace because it knows you’re more likely to open emails that are sent by people you know. Here are some examples:
These emails will often contain an important-sounding message about something pressing, such as “Who Wants 10% off Their Next Order?” Knowing how much time human resources employees spend at their desks these days, it’s no surprise that these types of messages continue to be popular phishing scams.
This is also known as spear phishing if it targets a specific person or organization.
2. Phony pop-ups and error messages designed to steal your information
Do you use a computer for work? If so, we can guarantee there have been countless times when you’ve received an error message or pop-up on your screen telling you that you need to call tech support right away. Whether it claims there’s a virus on your machine or that you’re the victim of credit card fraud, cybercriminals often use this type of phishing attack to get access to your personal information. Sometimes, they’ll even include links in fake chat windows fooling people into thinking they’re clicking through their web browser. Here are some examples:
As you can see, these types of phishing scams often pretend to be message pop-ups or error windows that appear on your computer screen. While many people might find them easy to spot, for others, they can be rather convincing.
3. Fake social media sites designed to steal your information
One of the most common forms of social engineering (the act of getting someone else to divulge personal information) is through fake social media accounts. With billions of users, it’s no wonder cybercriminals love using Facebook and Twitter to conduct their attacks! Not only do some copy an existing account exactly, but some go so far as copying profile pictures, bios, friend lists, and even past posts! All these fake accounts have in common that they all want to get you to click on a malicious link or open an infected file. Here are some examples:
Once again, cybercriminals continue to rely on the good nature of people in order to execute these types of phishing attacks.
4. Fake websites designed to steal your information
Another popular way cybercriminals conduct their scams is by creating false versions of real companies’ websites. Whether it’s email payment providers like PayPal or online shopping sites like Amazon, criminals know that if they can fool you into thinking you’re visiting one of these sites, they stand a much better chance at stealing your personal information. The most alarming thing about this type of phishing attack is how easy it can be to implement!
As you can see in the example above, with just a few lines of code, bad actors can create a virtually identical replica of any given website.
5. Social media posts containing malicious links and/or downloads
Bad guys continue to find new ways to use social media for their attacks. While these types of posts might seem fairly easy to spot, we have witnessed countless examples where people have clicked on them despite the negative comments from friends who warn against doing so! These types of social engineering ploys are more commonly found on Twitter, but some have also been spotted on Facebook.
6. Fake WiFi access points designed to steal your information
When you’re out and about, chances are the number of open WiFi hotspots you encounter will increase significantly. Unfortunately, public WiFi hotspots can be a cybercriminal’s dream! Why? Because they know that many people use these types of networks without any security in place. To make matters worse for users, some cybercriminals even go so far as to create fake access points using names almost identical to popular legitimate ones! The following image depicts what this type of attack might look like while you’re trying to connect:
These types of attacks are especially dangerous because not only do users give up their personal information when logging into these access points, but they often give up their online banking information too!
7. Fake forms designed to steal your information
With so many different ways for cybercriminals to lure unsuspecting victims into submitting their personal and/or financial information, it would only make sense that the bad guys continue to find new methods of doing this. One such method is through fake forms. By creating websites that closely resemble valid ones, cybercriminals hope you will unintentionally submit false data in fields meant for something else (i.e., entering your ATM PIN into a login form). Some even go as far as displaying an accepted icon after clicking on the field.
Phishing attacks are destined to evolve with the increased use of social media and online shopping. Although most people know what these scams look like, it only takes one instance where they fail to recognize an attack for their personal or financial data to be compromised. Therefore, the best defense against falling victim to this type of crime is awareness training, forcing yourself (or your employees) to recognize potential threats before submitting any information which could harm you!