No doubt you’ve heard of this type of computer scam, but what is phishing? In the computer world, phishing is email sent to you by criminals, which appear legitimate in a vague sort of way, but with very specific consequences to you if you are duped by them.
An email lands in your inbox, and at first glance it appears to be legitimate. Supposedly from FedEx, it says that your ebay.com purchase is being held at customs, please click here for details. Or an email from XYZ Furniture, stating that your payment of $4096.69 has been processed successfully, thank you for your business. Please click below to confirm your shipping details. These emails are cunningly designed to illicit a quick reaction from you and almost without thinking, you click on the link. At this point you are Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole.
If you are lucky, your security software will recognize the link and block you from connecting, but the sad truth is that the Phishermen change their emails many times a day and security companies often can not keep up with the changes. What about your firewall, can’t that keep them out? Well, if they were trying to connect to you, it probably would. But, now that they are inside your computer, they get your computer to contact them. Many consumer firewalls do not watch the outgoing traffic from your computer very closely.
So, what if my computer is now compromised? The bad guys will have complete access to your computer in short order, and you won’t have seen anything untoward on your screen to alert you. What do they want with you? You are a very valuable commodity on the black market, or at least your identity and financial information is. Also, having control of your computer lets the bad guys use it for other nefarious purposes.
The best way to avoid this fate is to be patient while you read your email. At first glance these messages look legitimate, and, as you start to stress about the contents of the message, you look around desperately for a way out of this mess, and there it is, a link to all the answers, if you just “click here”.
If, instead, you take a breath and look closely, you will begin to notice clues that there may be something phishy going on here. The FedEx email has firstname.lastname@example.org as an email address, strangely not from someone at FedEx.com. And the XYZ Furniture company? Well, you’re pretty sure you didn’t order any new corinthian leather deck chairs, aren’t you? If you are still concerned, don’t click their link, instead phone your credit card company and explain your concern, or your financial institution, they will be happy to look into your account for you. Google up current phishing scams, chances are the ones you received will be listed there, and others you haven’t seen yet. For-warned is for-armed, as they say.
And as always, scan your computer at least once a week with your two favourite security programs. This will keep your Windows computer as clean as possible.