According to Wikipedia, phishing "is the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information." If you are unfamiliar with the epidemic of phishing, it is high time that you educate yourself on the matter. Unfortunately, ignorance will not keep the danger of those who want your information at bay. Rather, if you are not educated about the dangers of phishing, you are even more vulnerable to it than most people.
Traditionally, the main method of phishing has been for criminals to send out massive amounts of e-mails to random e-mail addresses. These e-mails contain a link to a website that has some method of obtaining your private information. There are various ways that these websites can subtly retrieve your information.
The most common phishing scam is a "scam program." The e-mail/website will entice you into joining some kind of program that you will quickly get wrapped up in. You may end up losing your Internet account passwords, financial information, personal identity, and large amounts of money.
Another method of obtaining your information is through a fake portal. You will be asked to register for some sort of website which will then capture your username and password and store it somewhere where it can be accessed and used against you.
No matter what type of phishing scam it is, generally it will promise things that sound really great and are designed to make you want to take part. This key fact will come in handy later when I explain how you can protect yourself against the dangers of phishing and scamming.
Fortunately, e-mail programs have gotten better at detecting these phishing e-mails and blocking them from ever getting to you. The result is that for some time, the number of people falling victim to phishing scams has rapidly decreased. Unfortunately, the scammers have gotten better at getting around this security. Because these are intelligent people that are trying very hard to steal other peoples' hard earned money, they have made every effort to keep up their "living." Now, according to PC World, phishers have begun making use of malware to attack their victims.
If you are unfamiliar with malware, Wikipedia defines it as "software designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system without the owner's informed consent." Malware has been around for quite some time. For as long as the Internet has been around, criminals have been attempting to gain access to other peoples' computers, information, and files. By using malware, criminals can steal your information for any purpose, as well as take control of your computer and use it for their own purposes.
Only recently have phishing e-mails begun to make use of malware to achieve their devious ends. In these e-mails, the person doing the phishing pretends to be from the bank. The e-mail asks the user to install a piece of software that they claim is a security update necessary for your financial security. This file or program is actually a piece of malware. If you trust the e-mail and install the "security update," you may soon find that your personal information has been stolen or your computer is being controlled. Even worse is when you do not find out.
If you do not find out that the malware has been installed, it can continue stealing your information or your computer's resources indefinitely. Even if you do find out about the malware, it can be very difficult to address and/or remove. The malware is specifically designed to tenaciously stay on your computer no matter what you think of to do about it. All in all, malware is a huge headache that can steal your personal information or just make your life more difficult by slowing down your computer and making it not work as well.
Unfortunately for computer users, phishing is not the only dangerous source of malware. All of the sources that I mentioned above are still concerns that you have to constantly be aware of. Overall, malware is a significant danger that affects everyone who goes online and is not very well prepared to deal with those other individuals that want to do them harm or take advantage of them.
According to Microsoft, "Prevention is not only installing protective software. It is also modifying our behavior so that we minimize the risk of exposure, and understanding what to do when we are faced with a risky situation."
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