What are phishing emails and how to protect yourself in 2023

Abeerah Hashim Last updated: January 9, 2023 Read time: 30 minutes Disclosure

Wondering how phishing emails threaten your online security? Read along to learn what phishing emails are, how to identify and stop them from harming you.

Sneak peek at phishing emails

Hackers find emails a lucrative medium to execute phishing attacks since they can impersonate a wide variety of senders and target a vast number of victims globally. They can either target organizations by impersonating business communications or aim at the public by mimicking any widely-used service, such as banks and eCommerce platforms. The key to avoiding phishing emails is to stay vigilant while interacting with emails, no matter how urgent they seem.

You all know about fishing, right? You go out with a fishing tackle, choose bait, throw it in the water and pull back when you catch a fish. But, ever wondered if you could be fished online via phishing emails?

It isn’t fishing, but rather phishing, that targets you on the internet. For this, a phishing email comes as bait to trap you.

Phishing is the digital variant of fishing and is the most common and the most straightforward internet attack. It is the most common way hackers use to steal user information. It is a venerable and ever-evolving sophisticated cyber attack.

Everyone connected to the internet is exposed to this danger, from organizations to individual users. At the same time, most users have fallen prey to phishing attacks at least once.

Despite being an old strategy, phishing attacks remain the most successful cyberattacks. It’s because of the diversity of methods that criminals employ to trick users. Yet, the critical vector through which phishing attacks execute today remains emails.

For instance, you can receive an email from a fake lawyer claiming you are kin to a millionaire who recently passed away. To inherit the fortune left behind, you must meet the set requirements, in this case, sharing sensitive information.

Phishing comes in different forms, though fraudulent emails are the most common. To avoid being a potential target for these cybercriminal phishes, getting insights on phishing and how to prevent it is vital.

Hence, in this article, we’ll explain phishing emails meaning in detail and how to identify them. We’ll also guide you on things you can do to protect yourself if fallen victim to an email phishing attack.

What is phishing?

What is Phishing
(123RF)

Getting the correct definition of phishing can confuse some people, as several explanations exist. However, each description you find out there carries the meaning of fraud.

The Oxford language dictionary defines phishing as fraudulent activities that involve people receiving emails or messages purporting to be from recognized companies, spurring them to share personal information.

Once your information, such as bank or credit card details, gets into the hands of these hackers, you are likely to lose personal funds. Other attackers may target corporate data to sabotage businesses or lead to financial losses. Though cyberattacks differ, phishing uses a technique that provokes recipients to share personal or business-critical data.

Typically, phishing is widely used by cybercriminals as a digital tool to entice targeted people to provide data such as passwords and credit card numbers.

These phishing attacks are often conducted through emails and social networking sites. Here, cybercriminals disguise themselves as trusted sources or companies tricking victims into clicking malicious links or downloading particular attachments. Here is a breakdown of data types targeted by hackers through phishing;

  • Personal data: Email address, name, and social security number
  • Credit card information: PIN, password, CC number, and username
  • Business information: Sales forecasts, patents, and product insights
  • Banking information: Account number, online credentials, and PIN
  • Medical information: Insurance claims

Phishing has existed since the mid-1990s, and these malicious attacks have become efficient and more advanced nowadays. Besides, a single hacker can quickly target a more extensive network or groups worldwide.

The history of phishing

The History of Phishing
(Unsplash)

Like how fishers bait fish through fishing, hackers set a trap for targeted recipients through phishing.