Phishing is fishing for information

One of the most common and insidious cybercrimes going on today is called phishing.  The word is pronounced like ‘fishing’ and it means exactly the same thing in cyber terms, i.e. trolling or casting a baited hook to try to catch a fish, or in this case a phish.  ‘Phishers’ are unscrupulous people who attempt to obtain information from computer users for their own financial benefit, to the sorrow of the phish.

Identity theft is the usual aim of phishing scams, as personal information in the form of bank account numbers, pin numbers, passwords and social security numbers can be used to break into bank accounts, run up charges on credit cards, or apply for new loans, credit cards and other services.

The art of phishing has been refined considerably in the past few years.  The criminals have grown craftier, and are often successful in stealing their victim’s assets, even with protective measures in place.  However, there are several things a user can do to minimize the risks.

To mention just a few of the precautions suggested, it is strongly advised that users be wary of unexpected or unfamiliar e-mails, and never click on a link or open an attachment in any suspect message.  When in doubt, the best policy is:  don’t open the e-mail at all, but delete it unread.

Legitimate organizations do not need secret data (passwords) for normal business transactions, so never reveal them unless you are certain you’re dealing with the authentic business or institution.  Make sure you have adequate protective software and keep it up to date, and report any suspect e-mail to the authorities via the sites available on the Internet.