Why you NEED Phishing Protection
Cyber criminals make it their job to stay one step ahead of the antivirus vendors.
It’s a constant “cat and mouse” game: the hackers create a new virus, and the vendors have to quickly respond by updating their virus definitions to recognise the threat.
Modern antivirus programs do much to close the gap, and make “day zero” threats a concern for as little time as possible. Most of the best antivirus programs now update their definitions throughout the day, and many work in heuristic ways to identify virus-like conduct in the hope of catching new viruses based on their behaviour.
However, traditional viruses are just one of the things you should worry about as an Internet user. Right now, the thing that should probably concern you most is phishing.
What IS Phishing?
Phishing is a term used to describe hackers attempting to trick computer users into giving away passwords and other personal details.
Here’s an example:
You receive an email from your bank saying you need to update your details. You click the link in the email and it takes you to (what looks like) your usual Internet banking logon screen. You enter your details, and then get asked to confirm some other information – perhaps your date of birth, home address or account number.
What’s actually happened is that the hackers have created an almost exact replica of your bank’s website. By clicking through to it and entering your details, you’ve provided all of the information to the criminals. They now have your email address, your password, and whatever other details you were fooled into giving away.
The scary scenario above is not always the end of the matter. Cyber criminals know that despite plenty of advice to the contrary, many individuals continue to use the same passwords for all of their online activities. Once they’ve got your logon and password, they’ll try lots of other commonly used sites. Before you know it, they’ve gained access to your whole online presence.
What follows next is frightening yet predictable: unauthorised bank transfers, identity theft, and all kinds of other criminal activities.
What can you do?
Many modern Web browser programs do their best to alert you to phishing websites, but as stated above, cyber criminals make it their business to stay one step ahead.
The best advice is to use a well-respected antivirus package that includes phishing protection. Usually these will install a browser toolbar or plug-in that alerts you to “fake” sites, or those that may have been compromised.
Even better is to choose a package that includes anti-spam protection too. A good spam filter will separate out malicious emails that try to lead you to the malicious sites.
Social networking sites aren’t immune either. Hackers often try to post links to malicious sites on Facebook walls and groups and on Twitter feeds. That’s why many antivirus vendors now incorporate the ability to check your social networking accounts and alert you to links that you really shouldn’t click on.
Common sense always plays a part: you should never give out any information on the Web if you have any doubt about the provenance of the site you are on – but it does no harm to also have a reliable product to give you an early warning.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons