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Phishing is an attempt to steal your personal information, such as usernames and passwords, credit card details, bank account information or other sensitive data. It is typically carried out through emails or Internet pages that impersonate trusted entities like your bank, work, university or government agency.

These fake websites are designed to capture the attacker’s target’s private information through malicious attachments or redirections. They can also be used to install malware on the victim’s device. In some cases, phishers will use their targets’ own information posted on social media to make their messages appear more legitimate. For example, a phisher might pose as a friend on a social network and claim to be in financial trouble so that they can ask you to wire money.

The phishing attack might also take the form of a text message, instant-messaging app or other type of communication. The rise of these platforms has given attackers a new avenue to spread their attacks.

Despite the increased sophistication of phishing attacks, they remain incredibly effective. In some cases, a message will be so authentic-looking that it fools even seasoned professionals.

The best defense against phishing is to never click on suspicious links. Hover the mouse over a link to see its true destination and look for other warning signs, such as poor spelling and formatting. If you have any doubts about the validity of an email, contact the source directly via another means of communication.