9.25.2011

It’s a nice day to go Phishing, isn’t it?

Article By : Scott Hall
We live in a world where technology evolves quite rapidly and though most of us are savvy about the latest gadgets that are available, we may be unaware that the more access we allow ourselves to the vast world of internet use and personal communications, the more we are susceptible to predators whom may want to use our own lives against us.  Lots of citizens whom views their digital mail know that unless you slept surfed and signed up unknowingly, you have not won an internet lottery.  In fact, I am sure most of us would know that once something is won in a lottery, you don’t pay to release the money, you do however attract people’s attention.  Internet scams are no different in that they are specifically designed to attract attention.  The terminology for this type of electronic deception is sometimes known as “phishing”.  Few are aware how often this type of privacy invasion is attempted by thieves of data, in order to gain an advantage of some sort.  Put aside your tackle box, lay down your poles, this isn’t the phish we would want to eat anyway.


            We sit in front of our digital boxes all full of information and such and while we are looking through our Email, a title such as “Your application was accepted” is in the subject line, the sender, “Joe Somebody at and important sounding company name dot com”.  In anticipation that you will regain employment or better your position, you open the mail.  Before you are what seems to be legitimate links to follow through with your accepted application.  Eagerly you click the link which redirects you to a process to further filling out information, during this process a window pops up that says the company requires a credit check on you as part of your employment process.  It is as this point, one can either A) Opt to continue revealing who you are to an digital person in hopes that at some point you will be verified or receive some semblance that it is a legitimate job, or B) Close the window and realize you may be giving away too much information.  An uneasy feeling isn’t it?   This is only one example of a “phishing” scam, which when simply stated is a way for someone to obtain your personal identifying information, use that information to gain access to your “secure” information and take advantage of whatever platform suits them best.

            The good news is we are not alone, phishing happens to not just the average citizen, but to large corporations as well, some direct, some indirect.  According to an article posted online, the other side we don’t see is the damaged reputation to the legitimate business owner who may be falsely represented by the scam (spamlaws.com).  Part of the success of such scams is their ability to make things look very appealing by including things that most would not question if seen, such as the entry of a social security number upon an application for employment or the concept that some employers are now using of a credit check in the application process.  Sorting out the false from the real can be quite confusing, especially if one is unfamiliar with what can be done to prevent this type of tactic.

            First, we need to be clear that someone who is phishing for your information may have taken steps to insure they are not detected, including making logo’s, websites and media platforms so that the illusion looks real.  In order to help us combat the basics, we can use our own form of defense by simply going to our local Better Business Bureau (BBB.org) and requesting any information they may have in regards to the company in question.  Microsoft (Microsoft.com) suggests other factors may exist in our pursuit of recognizing the phisherman’s baiting tactics.  Some bait’s look similar to security updates where the update may mention a popular platform name and a certain need to update your settings or install specific software. Some citizens will react by applying simple logic such as “yep, I want to be secure” and click the link (this is the type they like the most), some will take the time to read the message and might notice grammar errors and then decide, which would be a great indicator to not click anything further as most scammers rarely use spell check or re read their own material, and others will realize that if our security is being affected, it will apply to more than just one singular web address.  We can also open our own security programs and verify they are up to date and running at peak performance.  Another helpful combatant to ensure the sender of the scam knows we may be on to them; one can send a phishing scam report or call their local law enforcement office to seek advice on how to properly report a suspected scam.

            While the methods listed above are all useful tools to ensure the phisherman goes home empty handed, these are not the only methods we can employ to deter them. The easiest to do, is to see if the website we are surfing or working on has a “veri-sign” security link, or look for an padlock symbol on the web page (means secure site) and check to see if the “HTTP” header includes an “S (HTTPS)” this also indicates a secure website.  Software is available to the public that helps identify and secure our computing worlds against malicious software attacks.  Websites such as C-Net (cnet.com) offer programs that one can install and use in order to tighten the grip and control we have over the internet’s predators of information. AVG (avg.com) and Avast (avast.com) both provide excellent Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware programs that work well with most systems.  A good Firewall program or Network / Internet monitoring software is also highly recommended if one is unsure or wants extra security within their own environments, most windows operating systems have this feature built in.  Firewalls are programs that continuously monitor the internet and network traffic in search of a digital signature that you did not approve or want that may be seeking an entrance into your computer and pretty much says “go away” for you.  Kind of similar to the “No Solicitation” signs a few of our neighbors have on their doors.

            In our digital lives, we must always be aware that just like in reality muggers exist and traffic accidents happen, people are out to retrieve and use our personal information for their own gains.  If we need to protect ourselves from unwanted prying eyes, a few simple steps will help secure our digital world from intrusion.  Steps such as turning on a spam filter, checking out credentials, installing software and applying a bit of common sense in knowing we didn’t win the Spanish lottery and keeping our security programs up to date are all vital to combating and deterring the phisherman.  The best part is now that we have all these tools to help us, we don’t even need to worry about cleaning up after we have skinned, gutted and cooked them, we will leave that to the law enforcement officials who track them down and lock them away.

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