I’ve heard a lot lately that the internet is to our modern world what the Wild West was to Americans centuries ago.
In some ways, it’s hard to imagine because all I can see is John Wayne or Davy Crocket wading through binary code or trampling wires as they ride their horses through some sort of Matrix-esque land. When I shove those thoughts aside though, I can see the similarities. Both worlds offer a vast landscape of mostly uncharted territory, hiding villains we have yet to even imagine.
Whereas the Wild West had Angel Eyes, Calvera, and the many other black cowboy hat-clad men, the internet has slimier creatures: the spoofers and phishers.
They are all terrifying in their own right. All menacing as a villain should be. Most of the fright consumers feel in the face of these internet predators is caused by not understanding how to identify and take down these scoundrels.
Here are the differences between the two, and how you can defeat them without all of the mess of a midday duel.
Phishing Scams: A phishing attack is used in order to coerce the victims into releasing personal and financial information. Phishing employs many methods including fake emails (which are quite common), Facebook messages, text messages, etc.
A common phishing tactic is sending an urgent message to victims asking them to login to their account to fix a mistake. When they click the given link, they are led to a fake website and upon entering their password and account information, they have subsequently and unknowingly given it to a phisher.
How can you take down a phishing villain? Always keep your guard up! If you receive a threatening or ominous email, question how or why a business would have lost your password or account information. When it doubt, call the business directly, and go to the website directly to see if there are any alerts on the homepage. Never click on the links provided in an email.
Spoofing Scams: Spoofing can often be utilized by anyone attempting a phishing attack. Spoofing is the act of mimicking or copycatting the email address of a business. A spoofer will then send emails to the victims asking them urgently to download a file. The file is often a virus or malware that will infect your computer and often continue the chain of spoofing emails to your entire contact list.
The main difference between phishing and spoofing is that while phishing attacks are attempts to gain your personal and financial information, purely spoofing attacks, though, often aim only to infect your computer with malware.
The spoofing scam’s kryptonite? A hefty dose of cynicism. It may seem likely that a friend would be sending you a greeting card around the holidays, but make sure you give them a call or send an instant message just to be certain. Always verify that the sender intended to send you the message.
Good luck to you! May these revelations be all you need to bring civility to your little piece of the internet. For more information about online safety, visit BBB.org or call 858.496.2131.