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Phishing is an attempt to steal valuable data (usernames, passwords, credit card numbers or bank account information) by masquerading as a reputable source with an enticing request. It’s named after the practice of fishing, because attackers use bait in the form of a deceptive message to lure unsuspecting victims in, like a fisherman using a line and hook.

While many people have learned to recognize phishing attempts, it’s still a massive problem. Attackers typically send messages with malicious links or attachments that download malware or direct users to a phony website. Attackers also target organizations, targeting key staff members that have access to vital systems and data.

Attackers use emotional manipulation techniques in order to trick users. They try to create a sense of urgency, such as warnings that accounts will be deactivated, or they might present authority by claiming to be a manager, CEO, or other important figure. Using AI voice generators, attackers can even sound like family members in order to make the attack more personal.

To reduce the risk of phishing, force users to change passwords regularly and only visit sites via bookmarks or a trusted URL. Also, perform system updates as soon as they’re available as these often address known vulnerabilities that attackers exploit. Lastly, limit the information shared on social media and review privacy settings regularly.