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Phishing is a cyber attack that uses fake links or attachments to trick victims into downloading malware and handing over confidential credentials and information. Cyber criminals are always tweaking their phishing attacks to take advantage of the latest technology and changes in how people use the Internet. In 2021 alone, phishing messages made up more than 45% of all email traffic – making it one of the most common ways attackers attempt to compromise communication and gain access to networks, data, or funds.

The most sophisticated phishing attempts, known as spear phishing, are designed to look like emails sent by organizations, departments or even specific individuals. This allows criminals to be more believable and increase the chances that their phishing message is clicked on.

For example, in the Dyre phishing attack of 2014, hackers posed as high-level executives at paint and materials company Sherwin-Williams, engine parts maker Miba or airliners RyanAir, and asked employees to urgently transfer funds from their personal accounts into business ones. This allowed criminals to steal more than $100 million.

Some phishing scams are easy to spot, including those claiming that you have won a lottery or that a prince wants to leave his fortune to you. But more advanced phishing attacks can look very real, even using photos sourced from social media or public profiles.

The best thing to remember is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If in doubt, contact the company directly using a phone number or email address from an existing business relationship. Also, never click on a link in an email or text from someone you don’t know.