Phishing Attacks in 2020 are Going to be More Personal and Sophisticated

Phishing scams remain one of the most widespread cybercrimes, even in 2020. These cons are easy to execute because they don’t need much or any technical knowledge. It is more of a mental game of tricking people online to submit their personal information.

Phishing scams also have a high success rate. So hackers and con artists find them to be quite profitable. Here’s what you can expect from phishing scams as we go further into 2020.

What is Phishing

If this is your first time running into the term “phishing,” here’s a brief explanation.

A phishing scam is a type of online fraud when hackers pose as a legitimate brand or company to gain your trust. They usually contact people through email, pretending to be a spokesperson of a well-known company.

The email can contain an offer, discount, or an invitation of some sort. Sometimes it urges to log in to an account to activate or review something.

The end goal is to trick you into clicking the link in the message, which will take you to a fake website. But don’t let the word “fake” fool you. These phishing sites look realistic, sometimes even identical to original websites. The level of effort scammers put into phishing nowadays is what makes these scams more challenging to detect.

Once you access the fake site, they ask you to log in, submit your information, or make a purchase. The forms that you see look like the original order forms provided by the real company. If you submit the information, scammers record your data and steal your credentials or financial info.

How is Phishing Going to Change in 2020

Besides being more frequent, this year, phishing scams are going to become more personal and even more sophisticated.

Hackers are turning to romance scams as a way of increasing their success rate. A romance scam is a type of internet scam when the con artist takes time to develop a relationship with the victim. They pretend to be someone else and engage in consistent communication with their target to build trust. They later proceed to the final step and trick the victim into sending money or personal details.

Scammers also make their phishing attempts more personal. They research everything they can find about their victim. For example, hackers can use personal information from social media accounts to make their scams more believable.

You can also expect scammers to take advantage of the evolving technology. Using AI systems can scale attacks beyond human capabilities. Hackers can use machine learning to increase the success rate of phishing attacks. One way to do so is basing new targets on previously obtained data.

Scammers won’t only target large organizations and businesses, but they will also turn to individual users. They can base attacks on personal data revealed on social media profiles, as well as other factors such as financial background and shopping habits. Those who make online transactions more often will become the primary targets of phishing scams.

How to Avoid the Scam

The most important question you might be asking is how to avoid the scam in the first place?

There are no security tools that will prevent phishing emails from finding their way to your device. In the end, spam filters don’t always work. But you can stay aware of the potential risks by educating yourself on the topic.

If you keep common red flags in mind, you can recognize a phishing scam.

If you have to protect a company or an organization, make sure to hold cybersecurity meetings. If that is not possible, at least have occasional awareness training. It will keep your employees up to date with recent scamming trends and security measures.

Speaking of security, it’s best to use a virtual private network, such as NordVPN, to encrypt all your internet traffic. It will hide your IP address and make it more difficult for third-parties to track you online. In other words, it guarantees some privacy, which doesn’t hurt when phishing attacks are getting personal. It also hides your credentials from anyone snooping on the network when you connect to public WiFi hotspots.

What’s more, you should set up multi-factor authentication wherever possible. It makes sure that scammers cannot exploit your credentials even if they end up stealing them.

Wrapping Things Up

Statistics show that one in every 25 branded emails is a phishing scam. Considering that an average user receives over dozens of emails per day, they can receive scam emails every other day.

If you have the habit of reading everything in your inbox, you can fall for these traps and end up giving personal information to the wrong people. To make sure it doesn’t happen, try to learn more about online scams and stay aware of the potential red flags when reading emails.

What’s more, take extra precautions, such as setting up MFA and using a virtual private network. In the end, make sure to pay attention to detail when accessing new sites through email links.

illustration: freepik

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