Phishing scams are on the rise. If you aren’t sure what a phishing scam is, then it’s pretty simple. The hacker sends an enticing email to you. They want you to click on some link. It always sounds convincing:

“You can win a $100 Gift Card from Amazon!”

“Your account has been locked! Click Here to reset your password.”

How Does Phishing Work?

The term phishing was adapted from the word “fishing.” A fisherman casts his line into the water and waits for a hungry fish to come along. Once the fisherman catches a big fish, he takes it home and eats it for dinner. It’s sort of like the hunter/prey scenario.

With phishing online, the hacker sends out tempting emails to try and get you to download an attachment or visit a harmful website. Once you take the bait, they infect your computer with a malware or ransomware virus. Their end game is to steal data, credit card information or log-in information from you.

Usually, if you get an offer from a stranger that sounds too good to be true, you should be suspicious. But unfortunately, people fall into these traps all the time. They click on the links or download attachments without really knowing what it is.

What are Malware and Ransomware?

Once you click the link, a virus is downloaded to your system. It may be malware or ransomware. Ransomware encrypts all your files until you pay the ransom. Even then, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your database restored. Malware is all about stealing credentials, passwords, and other valuable information from your company. Sometimes these hackers just want to destroy your data.

Malware includes Trojans, worms, spyware, adware, and rootkits. These malicious programs each have different goals, but all are destructive and aimed at harming your computers.

As technology evolves, cyber thieves discover new and more efficient ways to steal from people. After all, many people have become familiar with some phishing scams so they may not work as well. The solution is to come up with new scams that are appealing—things that users may not have heard about before.

How Has Phishing Changed?

The entire landscape of cybercrime is changing. In the beginning, hackers were just young guys sitting in their parent’s basement, trying to find clever ways to pass the time. But the crime worked so well that it began to raise the attention of bigger players. Unfortunately, this crime has become so successful that the governments of countries are now involved. Many ransomware scandals originate in Russia. The government employs hundreds of hackers. They have teams of IT experts who work around the clock to create new and more effective hacking scams.

When hackers are backed by a government like China, they have practically unlimited resources. This makes them even harder to stop. If they were merely individuals committing crimes for personal gain, the authorities could track them down and put them in jail. But today’s cybercriminals are well-organized agencies that are part of a large foreign government, so stopping them is almost impossible.

What Are Some Of The New Types Of Phishing Scams?

Below, are some of the newest cybercrimes:

Gift Cards: This scam is highly successful because typically the thieves don’t ask for very much money. Many victims will go ahead and pay even if they suspect that it’s a trick, just because there are only a few hundred dollars at stake. You may get a phone call from someone saying they’re from a creditor or the IRS. They will speak in hostile threatening tones. They’ll claim that if you don’t pay up immediately, terrible things will happen—maybe your car will be repossessed. Next, they instruct you to go to a local store like Walmart and buy gift cards in the amount you owe. Once you buy them, you call the thief back and give them the numbers found on the back of the cards. Once they have these, they can use them online to make purchases.

Sextortion: Have you ever sent nude pics to someone? Even if you haven’t, they sometimes claim that they’ve got some from your webcam or they’ve buried pornography on your computer that they plan to expose to the authorities if you don’t pay them. If you own a business, then this can be a crime that pays well for thieves. They send the business owner a little sample of the erotic photos, then demand money or else they’ll publish them on the Internet. The problem with this crime is that there’s no guarantee you’ll get all copies of the photos back. You may pay the criminals and still not be sure.

Phishing/Ransomware: Phishing crimes have become so successful that now there are variants like spear-phishing, vishing, and smishing. These are all forms of the same ruse. A hacker will send you a very convincing email. It may say something like, “Congratulations! You’ve just won $100 from Amazon. Click on the link below to claim your prize.”

Wire Fraud Scam: Hackers are targeting the human resource functions of businesses of all types with phishing. They’re convincing employees to swap out direct deposit banking information to offshore accounts.  A nonprofit in Kansas City (KVC Health Systems) said that there were numerous attempts each month involving scammers who were trying to convince their payroll personnel to change information about where to send employee pay. The IRS recently released a warning about an uptick in a wide range of fraud attempts involving payroll information.

How Do We Stop Phishing Scams?

As a business owner, you’ve spent years building a great company. Now some lazy hacker is trying to steal everything you’ve worked for. The first thing you need is knowledge. You need to know how cyber attacks occur. It’s important to stay current with the latest phishing scams. You need to know how ransomware works.

You must train your employees so they’ll know what to look for. Just one careless employee can open the door to thieves and cost you thousands of dollars. Make sure your employees can recognize a phishing email or malicious website.

Cybercrimes have been so successful that they will probably continue to escalate. What you have to do is protect yourself and your data with the best security software.

If you’re not sure whether your cybersecurity program is strong enough, hire a managed IT provider. They can perform penetration testing to assess your level of security.

A great managed IT service provider will do a full assessment of all your security protocols and let you know whether you need to add layers of protection. When you have the best cybersecurity platform in place, you can sleep better at night.


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