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What is Phishing in Cyber Security? Types of Attacks & How to Prevent It

Among UK businesses that experienced a cyber attack in 2022, 83% reported the attack as phishing. On a global scale, 323,972 internet users succumbed to phishing attacks in 2021, indicating that half of the individuals who fell prey to cybercrime were targeted through phishing.


Imagine you’re casually scrolling through your inbox, sipping your morning coffee, when suddenly, there it is,  an email that seems just a bit too eager to be your long-lost friend. You’re caught in the web of phishing, a digital charade where cyber tricksters disguise themselves as your trusted pals, banks, or even your tech-savvy grandma. They cast their virtual fishing lines into the vast sea of unsuspecting users, hoping someone will take the bait. It’s like a sneak attack, a masquerade ball in the digital realm where the masked villains are after your secrets. They want your passwords, your credit card numbers, and the keys to your virtual kingdom.


So, next time you receive an email asking for your deepest, darkest digital secrets, remember – it might just be a phishing expedition in disguise, and you’re the unsuspecting fish they’re hoping to reel in. Stay sharp, stay sceptical, and don’t let the cyber sea monsters get the best of you! 


While reading through the below sections, you will become more aware of phishing, its types and preventive measures.


Table of  Contents 



What is Phishing?


Phishing is a deceptive practice involving the transmission of fraudulent communications that masquerade as trustworthy sources, typically executed through email. The primary objective of phishing attacks is to illicitly acquire sensitive information such as credit card details or login credentials. In more insidious cases, perpetrators may seek to install malware on the victim’s device, compromising its security. Given its prevalence, understanding the mechanics of phishing is crucial for individuals to safeguard themselves against this common form of cyber attack. Awareness and vigilance play pivotal roles in fortifying defences against the potential threats posed by phishing attempts.


How Phishing Works?


Phishing, a cyber attack method, relies on deceptive messages sent through various electronic communication channels, primarily email and social media. The process involves several key steps orchestrated by malicious actors to manipulate individuals into revealing sensitive information or performing actions detrimental to their security.


The foundation of a phishing attack is the message itself, which can be disseminated through email, social media platforms, or other electronic communication channels. To enhance the effectiveness of their ploy, phishers often utilise public resources, especially social networks, to gather background information about their targets. This information includes personal and professional details such as the victim’s name, job title, email address, interests, and activities.


Armed with this gathered intelligence, the phisher crafts a seemingly authentic message tailored to the victim. Typically, these fraudulent emails appear to originate from a known contact or a reputable organisation, adding a layer of credibility to the attack. The phisher may employ sophisticated techniques to create a convincing message, often mimicking the writing style and branding of trusted entities.


The attacks are executed through various methods, commonly involving malicious attachments or links leading to harmful websites. Phishers frequently set up fake websites that impersonate trusted entities like banks, workplaces, or universities. Through these deceptive websites, attackers attempt to extract sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, or payment details.


While some phishing attempts may be easily identified due to poor copywriting or inconsistencies in fonts, logos, and layouts, cybercriminals are evolving. Many are adopting professional marketing techniques to refine the authenticity of their messages, making it challenging for individuals to distinguish between genuine and fraudulent communications. This sophistication underscores the importance of vigilant cybersecurity practices and the need for continuous awareness to thwart the ever-evolving tactics employed by phishing perpetrators. Individuals and organisations must remain proactive in identifying and mitigating potential threats to safeguard their digital security.


Types of Phishing Attacks


  • Email Phishing:

    A widespread tactic where fraudulent emails are sent to multiple recipients, urging them to update personal information, verify account details, or change passwords. The emails create a sense of urgency and often mimic legitimate sources like PayPal, Apple, or banks.


  • Content Injection:

    Malicious content is injected into familiar-looking web pages, such as email or banking login pages. This injected content includes links, forms, or pop-ups that redirect individuals to secondary websites, where they are coerced into providing personal information or updating account details.


  • Link Manipulation:

    Deceptive emails with carefully crafted wording contain malicious links to well-known websites like Amazon. Clicking on these links redirects users to fake websites that closely resemble the genuine ones, prompting them to update account information or verify details.


  • CEO Fraud:

    Domain spoofing is where emails appear to come from high-ranking individuals, such as CEOs or colleagues, requesting actions like fund transfers or sharing sensitive information.


  • Fake Websites:

    Hackers create imitation websites identical to popular ones but with slightly altered domains. Users, thinking they are on legitimate sites, unknowingly expose themselves to identity theft.


  • Mobile Phishing:

    Fraudulent messages through SMS, social media, or in-app notifications inform recipients of account issues, leading them to click on links, videos, or messages designed to steal personal information or install malware on mobile devices.


  • Spear Phishing:

    Advanced targeted email phishing is directed at specific individuals or organisations. The attackers use personalised messages to steal data, extending beyond personal information to compromise entire organisations.


  • Voice Phishing (Vishing):

    Phone callers leave urgent voicemails or read scripted messages, urging recipients to call a provided number to prevent consequences like account suspension or legal charges.


  • Session Hijacking:

    Involves sophisticated techniques allowing criminals to breach web servers and steal stored information, compromising the security of user sessions.


  • Malvertising:

    Malicious software uses online ads or pop-ups to entice users into clicking links that install malware on their computers.


  • Malware:

    Occurs when individuals click on email attachments, unwittingly installing software that mines their computer for information. Malware types include keyloggers, tracking keystrokes to discover passwords and trojan horses that trick users into revealing personal information.


  • Man-In-The-Middle:

    Phishing attacks are where the criminal manipulates communication between two parties, sending fake requests or altering information without the involved parties’ knowledge.


  • Evil Twin Wi-Fi:

    Cybercriminals create fake Wi-Fi access points resembling legitimate hotspots in locations like coffee shops. Users unknowingly connect to these fake Wi-Fi points, enabling criminals to intercept and manipulate their communicated data.


These various phishing tactics are integral components of a broader social engineering scheme, cleverly designed to deceive individuals and extract sensitive information or access. Understanding these tactics is crucial for fortifying defences against evolving cyber threats.


Seven Frequently Observed Signs of a Phishing Attempt


Phishing attempts, cleverly disguised attempts to extract personal information, can take various forms, making it essential to recognise the common indicators that may signal a potential threat. Here are seven frequently observed signs of a phishing attempt:


  • Generic or Strange Greetings:

    Phishing emails often reveal themselves through awkward or generic greetings that don’t align with the context of the message. Look out for unusual punctuation, capitalisation, and greetings that seem out of place, as these may indicate automated messages sent by bots.


  • Unusually-worded Subject Lines:

    Subject lines containing phrases like “FWD: FWD: FWD: Important Message From…” or “Account Alert” can be telltale signs of phishing attempts. Such emails often exhibit urgency and may request verification of account information through hyperlinks.


  • An Offer That Seems Too Good to Be True:

    Be cautious of enticing offers that appear too good to be true, such as free gadgets or exotic trips. Phishers use these bait tactics to lure individuals into providing personal information. If an unsolicited offer seems extraordinary, exercise scepticism to avoid falling victim to a phishing scheme.


  • Unknown, Unusual, or Public Domain:

    Phishing emails may employ unknown or unusual sender addresses or names. Be wary of emails with odd formatting or from organisations unfamiliar to you. Additionally, scrutinise the domain names, as phishing attempts may use seemingly legitimate but inactive domains.


  • Blatant Grammatical or Spelling Errors:

    Phishing emails often contain glaring grammatical and spelling errors. Phishers, frequently lacking proficiency in English, may inadvertently reveal their fraudulent intentions through poorly written content. Watch for capitalisation mistakes, missing words, or odd sentence structures.


  • Suspicious Links or Attachments:

    Be cautious of suspicious links and attachments, as they can lead to phishing websites or install harmful malware. Hover over links to inspect their destinations before clicking. If an email’s content feels off or doesn’t align with the claimed sender, exercise caution before opening any attachments or clicking on links.


  • Origin of Sender and Request Type:

    A lack of clear origin for the sender or requests for urgent actions, such as updating account information immediately, can be red flags. If an email requests personal information without proper context, it may indicate a phishing attempt. Verify the legitimacy of the sender and the nature of the request before taking any actions.


Remaining vigilant and understanding these signs is crucial in safeguarding against phishing attempts. Remember to scrutinise emails for these indicators and adopt cybersecurity measures to protect your personal information from potential threats.


How to Prevent Phishing Attacks?


Phishing attacks are pervasive threats that require a collaborative effort between users and enterprises to ensure robust protection. Implementing preventive measures is crucial in safeguarding sensitive information and thwarting the deceptive tactics employed by cyber adversaries.


For Users:


  • Vigilance is Key:
    Users play a vital role in preventing phishing attacks through heightened vigilance. Scrutinise messages for subtle mistakes, such as spelling errors or alterations to domain names, as these can expose the true identity of a spoofed message. Take a moment to question the legitimacy of unexpected emails, especially those urging urgent actions.


  • Think Before Clicking:
    Before clicking on any links or downloading attachments, users should pause and assess the legitimacy of the message. Be cautious of unexpected emails, particularly those requesting sensitive information or immediate action. Verify the sender’s identity and the content’s authenticity to avoid falling victim to phishing attempts.


For Enterprises:


  • Implement Two-Factor Authentication (2FA):
    Two-factor authentication is a potent defence against phishing attacks, adding an extra layer of verification during login. By requiring users to provide both something they know (e.g., a password) and something they have (e.g., a smartphone), 2FA significantly reduces the risk even if credentials are compromised. This ensures that access to sensitive applications is granted only with dual verification.


  • Enforce Strict Password Management Policies:
    Organisations should implement and enforce robust password management policies. This includes regular password changes and the prohibition of password reuse across multiple applications. By adopting stringent password practices, enterprises enhance the overall security posture and make it harder for attackers to exploit compromised credentials.


  • Educational Campaigns:
    Educational campaigns within organisations are instrumental in fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness. Training employees to recognise and respond to phishing threats is essential. Emphasise secure practices, such as refraining from clicking on external email links and being cautious with unexpected or suspicious messages. Regularly update employees on evolving phishing tactics to keep them informed and vigilant.


  • Security Awareness Programs:

    Conducting ongoing security awareness programs is essential for reinforcing secure behaviours among employees. Provide real-world examples of phishing attempts and educate staff on how to identify and report potential threats. Empowering employees with the knowledge to navigate the digital landscape securely contributes significantly to the overall resilience against phishing attacks.


By combining user vigilance with robust enterprise-level measures, organisations can establish a formidable defence against phishing attacks. Implementing two-factor authentication, enforcing strict password policies, and conducting educational campaigns contribute to a comprehensive strategy that enhances cybersecurity resilience and protects sensitive information from falling into the hands of cybercriminals. Remember, prevention is the first line of defence in the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats.


What to Do If You’ve Fallen Victim of Phishing?


Once your information is transmitted to a malicious actor, it is likely to be shared with other fraudsters, leading to potential exposure to vishing, smishing, new phishing emails, and voice calls. Stay vigilant for any suspicious messages requesting personal or financial details.


The Federal Trade Commission provides a dedicated website on identity theft to assist in minimising potential harm and monitoring your credit score. If you have clicked on a link or opened a dubious attachment, there is a possibility that your computer may have been infected with malware. To identify and eliminate the malware, ensure that your antivirus software is up-to-date and equipped with the latest patches.


Long Story Short:


The prevalence and sophistication of phishing attacks underscore the critical importance of proactive cybersecurity measures. Falling victim to phishing can result in severe consequences, from financial losses to compromised personal information. Staying vigilant, educating oneself on the evolving tactics of cybercriminals, and adopting robust security practices are paramount in fortifying defences against these deceptive threats. As technology advances, so do the skills of malicious actors, making it essential to prioritise cybersecurity awareness and preventive measures.


Investing in cybersecurity courses, such as those offered by Hero Vired, can empower individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the digital landscape securely. By staying informed and taking proactive steps, individuals can play a crucial role in creating a safer online environment and protecting themselves from the ever-present threat of phishing attacks.





Phishing is a form of social engineering attack frequently employed to pilfer user data such as login credentials and credit card numbers, it transpires when an assailant, posing as a trusted entity, tricks a target into accessing an email, instant message, or text message.
  • Spear Phishing.
  • Whaling.
  • Vishing.
  • Email Phishing.
Some argue that the term phishing draws inspiration from the word 'fishing.' Just like fishing, phishing is a method to metaphorically 'fish' for usernames, passwords, and other confidential information within a vast 'sea' of users.
Hacking and phishing share a connection in their objective of acquiring information, yet they diverge in their methodologies. Phishing, which can potentially evolve into a hack, unfolds when a user is enticed through an email, phone call, or text, ultimately leading them to unwittingly disclose personal information.
The goal of a phishing attack is to deceive the recipient into complying with the attacker's intended action, which may involve divulging financial details, system login credentials, or other confidential information.

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