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What Is Phishing?

What is a phishing email and how can you protect yourself against one?

By
Eric Escobar,
January 28, 2016
Episode #206

Page 1 of 2

Have you ever received an email that didn’t look quite right? Have you ever been emailed from a friend who was seemingly stuck abroad and needed a few hundred dollars wired to them? Has a Nigerian princess ever solicited your help?

Every day there are billions and billions of spam emails sent to everyone on the Internet. In fact, half of all email sent is spam. Now, some of these emails are a tad more devious. They aren’t meant to just solicit you to buy something or to look at a website you might be interested in. Emails known as phishing emails serve a more dubious purpose: to trick you to steal information, or even your money.

Phishing emails are typically designed to look like legitimate emails. They could look like they are coming from a bank, friend, or social media website. The goal is often to collect information about you or to steal information such as your bank account or passwords. In this post, I'll show you how to keep you information and computer safe and avoid phishing emails!

The Goal of Phishing Emails

You may be thinking “OK, Tech Talker, I receive a lot of junk and phishing emails, but I’d never fall for them.” Sadly, the reason so many people receive junk mail and phishing emails is because they cost next to nothing to send and even one person who falls for them means that they were worth the effort.

While spam email typically solicits you to buy something, phishing emails are much more serious. They are designed to look like legitimate emails from legitimate businesses and websites. Some spear phishing emails will come in the form of banking emails that require immediate attention to your account. These emails will often direct you to a fake website that looks like your real bank. The goal is to get you login to the fake website, which will actually steal your banking passwords.

The same goes for other websites such as social media and email accounts. These emails will pose as emails from a real website, and the goal is to get your login username and password. From there, they will start sending other phishing emails to your friends and contacts in order to spread their campaign.

The Dangers of Phishing

Now it goes without saying that it's negative if someone gets your banking information. A hacker getting the contact list of your friends and family through email and social media is also bad because they can then send email as you, which your contacts will trust more. This will only spread the phishing emails, and put your friends and family at risk.

Sometimes phishing emails will even be a bit more devious and will simply want you to click on a link. Simply clicking on a link in an email can lead to being infected with a virus. Browsers and modern operating systems are good at spotting viruses. However, they are not perfect, and visiting a website could mean a malicious program gets loaded on to your computer and causes you to become infected.

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