Tip of the Week: U.S. Government Teaches How to Avoid Phishing Attacks

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) strives for a safer, stronger Internet for all Americans by responding to major incidents, analyzing threats, and exchanging critical cyber security information with trusted global partners. The organization’s Security Tip named “Avoiding Phishing Attacks” explains how to avoid being a victim and what to do if you become a victim.

Imagine the damage someone could do if they knew your Facebook password. Now imagine how much more harmful it could be if they had your banking information. Of course, you would never give over this information to a stranger, but what if they sent you an email pretending they were your bank. How would you know not to trust them then?

Be careful when asked to provide personal details because they could be phishing attempts aimed at stealing your sensitive account information. Did you know that 30% of all phishing emails that get sent are opened? Don’t underestimate the threat.

Don’t wait anymore! Get ZoneAlarm Extreme Security now! It prevents identity theft with advanced Anti-Phishing protection, provides you a 100% virus-free environment and zero-day protection with threat emulation. Read the article Don’t Take the Bait when Something Smells Phishy! and learn more about “7 Tips to Avoid Phishing Attempts” and “Professional Anti-Phishing Solutions.”

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To read the original US-CERT Security Tip – ST04-014, click here or continue below.

What is a phishing attack?

Phishing attacks use email or malicious websites to solicit personal information by posing as a trustworthy organization. For example, an attacker may send email seemingly from a reputable credit card company or financial institution that requests account information, often suggesting that there is a problem. When users respond with the requested information, attackers can use it to gain access to the accounts.

Phishing attacks may also appear to come from other types of organizations, such as charities. Attackers often take advantage of current events and certain times of the year, such as natural disasters (e.g., Hurricane Katrina, Indonesian tsunami,) epidemics and health scares (e.g., H1N1,) economic concerns (e.g., IRS scams,) major political elections, and holidays.

How do you avoid being a victim?

  • Be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls, visits, or email messages from individuals asking about employees or other internal information. If an unknown individual claims to be from a legitimate organization, try to verify his or her identity directly with the company.
  • Do not provide personal information or information about your organization, including its structure or networks, unless you are certain of a person’s authority to have the information.
    Do not reveal personal or financial information in email, and do not respond to email solicitations for this information. This includes following links sent in email.
  • Don’t send sensitive information over the Internet before checking a website’s security. (See Protecting Your Privacy for more information.)
  • Pay attention to the URL of a website. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com vs. .net).
  • If you are unsure whether an email request is legitimate, try to verify it by contacting the company directly. Do not use contact information provided on a website connected to the request; instead, check previous statements for contact information. Information about known phishing attacks is also available online from groups such as the Anti-Phishing Working Group.
  • Install and maintain anti-virus software, firewalls, and email filters to reduce some of this traffic. (See Understanding Firewalls, Understanding Anti-Virus Software, and Reducing Spam for more information.)
  • Take advantage of any anti-phishing features offered by your email client and web browser.

What do you do if you think you are a victim?

  • If you believe you might have revealed sensitive information about your organization, report it to the appropriate people within the organization, including network administrators. They can be alert for any suspicious or unusual activity.
  • If you believe your financial accounts may be compromised, contact your financial institution immediately and close any accounts that may have been compromised. Watch for any unexplainable charges to your account.
  • Immediately change any passwords you might have revealed. If you used the same password for multiple resources, make sure to change it for each account, and do not use that password in the future.
  • Watch for other signs of identity theft. (See Preventing and Responding to Identity Theft for more information.)
  • Consider reporting the attack to the police, and file a report with the Federal Trade Commission.

 

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