A couple of years ago, many people were still ignorant about this massive cyber crime called phishing. Some partly because they somehow confuse it with fishing and don’t think it is cyber-related or even anything to worry about. And others remain so because they are just sadly uninformed about many things happening around them.
Whatever the case may be, cybercriminals have been enriching themselves through phishing for as long as the internet has been. So, we would like to show you some best practices to avoid phishing in this article. This is so that all of our readers across the U.S don’t remain ignorant of anti-phishing best practices anymore.
What Does Phishing Mean?
Phishing is an illegal method of acquiring sensitive personal information from unsuspecting individuals. This information may include vital bank details, credit/debit card information, account passwords, login information, and other information.
These criminals send out emails to targeted individuals, and they always claim to be from a reputable company or financial institution. Once they can trick and successfully get the victim to trust them, they cunningly acquire their financial information. They also plant destructive software once they can gain access to a victim’s space.
Such attacks are not limited to emails alone, though. They can also be done with unsolicited links via text messaging or instant messaging apps as well.
What Happens If You Click On A Phishing Link By Accident?
If you click on a phishing link at any point in time, the immediate action the link is programmed to take is to install a virus or harmful software on your device. Now, because this happens really fast and also not on your home screen, a lot of people do not suspect that something terrible has been set in motion.
The most important thing to cybercriminals that launch phishing attacks is the ability to access as many people’s personal information as they can. Clicking on links or opening attachments in emails from untrusted sources opens you up to these attacks and grants the criminals access to your digital infrastructure.
Hence, you not only have to keep abreast of best practices to avoid phishing but also learn about what happens if you click on a phishing link. This way, you’ll be able to react fast enough to salvage the situation before any cybercriminal gains full access to your hard-earned funds.
What Are The Anti-Phishing Best Practices To Avoid Phishing?
It is not just enough to know what to do if you click on a phishing link. You must also educate yourself on some of the anti-phishing best practices so that you’ll be able even to avoid it altogether.
There are many valuable resources and places you could visit online to learn and keep yourself abreast of these things. For this read, we’ve prepared a few tips for you here so that you won’t fall victim to phishing.
1. Your Passwords Must Always Be Strong
Thanks to many assistive technologies these days, this is no longer such a hard thing to do. Whenever you are setting up an account online, you will get tips to let you know if your chosen password is too weak or strong enough. This is a crucial step that helps you prevent phishing attacks.
Most platforms even suggest helping you create an encrypted password if you can’t come up with something strong enough. Always ensure that whichever option you settle for at the end of the day leaves you with a password fit enough to safeguard nuclear warheads.
If you would like to set up your passwords without the use of assistive technology, though, simply ensure that it contains some or all of the following:
- A capital letter: It could be at the beginning or even anywhere in the whole mix.
- Many numbers: These could be random or sequential, depending on how you want it to be.
- A few special symbols as well would be great.
In choosing a super-strong password, too, though, please ensure that you either jot it down somewhere safe, or it is one you can easily remember any time you need it. You want to lock the cybercriminal out and not lock yourself out of your accounts, too, remember?
2. Do Not Disable Your Firewalls
One of the biggest mistakes anyone could ever make in this technologically advanced age is ever to turn off their firewalls. These are like the gatekeepers that act as a protective barrier between your devices, you, and any cyber-intruders. Turning it off is tantamount to digital suicide.
When you deploy firewalls simultaneously, your network and devices are significantly protected from phishing attacks. Whichever type of firewall you choose (network or desktop), always ensure that it is never turned off for any reason.
3. Always Update Your Browser
Top browsers like Safari, Mozilla Firefox, and others consistently release security updates for their browser applications. This is in a bid to counter any security loopholes that cybercriminals are always on the prowl for.
Now, if for any reason you choose to keep ignoring warnings and updates requesting that you update your browser, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. Always check online for updates to your browsing apps, and make sure to download and install them immediately after the updates are released.
4. Make Good Use Of Your Spam Filter As Well
There is a reason why spam filters are built into virtually every email and instant messaging service. Do not ignore or underestimate the potency of your spam filter. Email services like Gmail, Yahoomail, and others are excellent at spotting spam emails and sending them straight into the spam folder.
Let the spam filter do its job, and for Pete’s sake, do not go clicking on emails from unknown sources inside your spam folder. That is like disabling your security alarms and inviting an armed robber into your house all by yourself.
5. Never Input Vital Data Into Any Pop-Up Window
You should never input your vital information on any window that pops up on your screen while browsing for no reason at all. Many times, phishing criminals use this technique to lure unsuspecting victims into clicking on dangerous links. Some even subtly request that you input one sensitive detail or the other.
You can set your browser to block pop-up windows whenever you are active online permanently. If any still gets through, make sure to click the “x” button at the top-right corner of the window and move on.
6. Always Ensure That The Browser Address Bar Reads “HTTPS”
The Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) protocol ensures the security of all HTTP data that is moved over any connection. In simpler terms, do not browse a website with a web address showing http:// instead of an https://.
This is because the connection is not secure in any way, and whatever data you transmit via this connection is very unsafe. Always check every web address to verify this before inputting any of your details on it.
It is better to be safe than sorry, especially when dealing with cybercriminals and avoiding phishing scams. Always make sure to never click on any unverified attachments in any email you receive.
Do not click on any hyperlinks in such emails too. Unless the email is from a known and trusted source, you should even delete any email sent to you that contains such immediately.
What To Do If You Click On A Phishing Link Accidentally As Well?
Accidents happen, and sometimes we get carried away even while working. So, it is possible for you to accidentally click on a phishing link before realizing what it is. If you ever find yourself in such a spot, do not panic.
Here are a few things you could do if you ever accidentally click on a phishing link:
1. Turn off your internet connection immediately
Clicking on a phishing link grants hackers and cyber criminals access to your network and device. However, if you immediately disconnect from the internet, you can sever the connection instantly.
2. Don’t input any data
If you accidentally find yourself on a phishing or unfamiliar site while browsing, do not input any personal data at all before you revert to the first step above.
3. Create new login details immediately
Once you notice that you may have accidentally clicked on a phishing link, always log out of every account you’re signed into and change the login details. This way, you can remain in control of your accounts and prevent any further damages.
4. Run a full system scan on your device immediately
This is to help you detect if any suspicious malware has been planted when you clicked the link, especially ransomware.
5. Create a backup for everything on your gadget as well
Cybercriminals use ransomware as a means of extorting victims. Once they successfully access your system, they can lock you out of your files and demand that you pay a ransom to get them back (hence the name “ransomware”). Having a complete backup of your files already can save you from such torment.
No matter how much you invest in premium firewalls, anti-virus software, and all, ignorance of these best practices to avoid phishing can prove quite costly in the long run.
Cybercriminals are tireless and very relentless in devising ways to find and rob victims. You should be persistent about your approach to protecting yourself as well.
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