What is Phishing? Phishing Types and Tips for Prevention

What is phishing, types and protection


Phishing is an old and tested cyber-security attack that, to this day, remains #1 cause of data breaches worldwide. Anyone can fall victim to a phishing attack, so it's essential to know how to recognize one.

What is Phishing?

The phishing definition describes this type of activity as a deceitful use of electronic communication services to defraud online users. Phishing emails are created with one sinister purpose in mind – to deceive the user and get a hold of his sensitive and valuable information such as credit card data, social security number, passwords, and other private details. Phishing scams are very popular among hackers, as they don't require too much effort and resources and can target a large base of online users.

While this type of fraudulent behavior does sound menacing, not all phishing scams are the same. Most phishing emails are relatively easy to recognize at face value, even if you're not a cybersecurity expert. They are usually poorly written, with bad grammar, often urging you to act fast or offering you a deal that's too good to be true. But, there are more organized cybercriminal groups that use very effective phishing email hooks that generate high click-through rates. In either case, it's necessary to know as much as you can about this topic. That's why, in this post, we will go over the most common types of phishing attacks, as well as the best phishing email prevention measures.

Types of Phishing Attacks

As security experts continue to educate online users on how to prevent the most common phishing attempts, new phishing scams also keep coming out. With that in mind, it's important to be aware of some of the most prevalent types of phishing attacks currently circulating the internet.

Types of phishing (spear phishing, whaling, sms phishing, farming)

Spear Phishing Attacks

Spear phishing is an electronic communications scam or an email targeted towards a specific individual or organization. It's mostly known as the latter and is primarily used to steal valuable data from the user's device or infect the device with malware. The way this form of scam works is quite simple. The hacker sends an email to the target posing as a trustworthy source. The unknowing user then opens the email infected with a malicious link, which leads him to a fake website filled with malware.

Spear phishing is one of the most common phishing tactics among hackers. One of the biggest and best-known spear phishing attacks was on Epsilon back in 2011. The company was one of the largest email service providers at the time of the spear-phishing incident, which exposed valuable information of over 50 top companies that used the service.

Whaling Attacks

Whaling attacks, also known as CEO fraud, are phishing attacks aimed explicitly at executives and senior business partners within an organization. The main objective of whaling attacks is to steal large amounts of money or obtain sensitive exec information to authorize fraudulent financial transactions. While you might not think that these types of phishing emails are effective as they target highly-educated and experienced people, they are surprisingly very efficient. Of course, whaling attacks require much more research and are more sophisticated than the types mentioned above, but are also one of the most financially beneficial kinds of scam hackers rely on.  

Voice and SMS Phishing

Although phishing email attacks are by far the most popular methods defrauders like to use, phishing scams can also be carried out over the phone. Through voice phishing or Vishing, the attacker can set up a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and impersonate familiar individuals to get a hold of valuable private or financial information. Another phone-oriented type of phishing scam is SMS phishing, also known as Smishing. Just like every other form of phishing, in SMS phishing fraudsters pose and mimic known entities in an attempt to leverage the user into disclosing personal information.


Unlike any of the above mentioned methods, pharming completely diverges from the traditional "victim baiting" concept. It is based on DNS cache poisoning, which redirects the user from a reliable website to the fake site set up by the hackers. This way, the user is tricked to input his login details on the fake site, instead of the real one. This technique is not as common as the others but is most often used by attackers who have control of multiple users' systems and can leverage a control system through real and trustworthy accounts.

How to Prevent Phishing Attacks

This type of malicious activity is carried out through careful planning and taking advantage of different cybersecurity loops. But, to prevent phishing attempts, you will need to have more of a creative than a scientific approach. There are several useful practices you can use in your daily life to prevent phishing attacks.

Take advantage of Email Filters

Email filters should serve as the first line of your defense. You can set filters to protect against spam and phishing emails by tailoring them to organize messages by their origin and appearance. Keep in mind that spam filters can often also block emails from legitimate sources, meaning that this prevention method isn't entirely accurate.

Don't Open Suspicious Emails

If, by some chance, a phishing email manages to get through your spam filters, don't open it and don't click on any links included in the email message. As we mentioned earlier in this post, often these malicious link attachments will take you to unreliable sites that will try to encourage you to provide personal or financial information, or outright infect your device with malware.

Keep an Eye for SSL Credentials

If you think an email is from a reliable source, but aren't entirely sure, the best way to go about it is to hover over the link attachment. Secure sites use SSL encryption, meaning that their addresses begin with HTTPS instead of HTTP. Over the last couple of years, Google has put a lot of effort into marking HTTP sites that collect information as non-secure, as part of their plan to make the internet a safer place for online users.

Manage Your Browser Settings

As we wind down this list of the best prevention measures against phishing attacks, this method is often overlooked despite all of its potential advantages. No matter which browser you prefer using, you can adjust the browser settings to prevent malicious link attachments from opening. Most browsers keep a regularly updated list of suspicious sites so that they can block them if you unknowingly request access.

Incorporate Two Factor Authentication

With the increasing number of data breaches, phishing scams, and other security threats, Two Factor Authentication is fast becoming a standard safety procedure among privacy-conscientious online users. By using 2FA protection, you will add a secure layer that will serve to protect all of your sensitive information better, especially if you're a company that could potentially be the target of a whaling attack.

Use Hideez Key

Last, but not least, consider securing your information with Hideez Key. It's the most reliable and fool-proof way to protect yourself from a phishing attack. Hideez Key checks the credibility of the site and or app you open, and it doesn't enter your login and password unless the resource is safe. Advanced users can also benefit from other Hideez Key features, such as OTP generation and MFA. Hideez provides the Keys for both individuals and enterprises.

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