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Phishing is the name given to attacks that target individuals with the goal of tricking them into revealing sensitive information or passwords to online accounts. Attackers use a variety of tools to perform phishing, including email, telephone, social media, SMS, and in-person. Attackers can then take this information and exploit it for their own malicious purposes. The most common form of phishing involves attackers impersonating trusted organizations or people, for example, Microsoft claiming that their account has been compromised, banks trying to verify non-existent purchases, or tech and cybersecurity companies warning users of a breach. Attackers also try to make their phishing emails more convincing by using details about the victim that they have gleaned from social media.

Attackers often try to instil a sense of urgency with their phishing emails, for example, telling the victim that they have to click on a link immediately or their online bank account will be suspended. This is why it is so important to always check the legitimacy of any attachment you receive in an email, especially if the message contains an element of threat or is asking you to act quickly.

Other signs that an email may be phishy include messages that don’t seem to match the sender’s writing style or contain unnerving phrases, for example, ‘your account has been compromised’. It’s also worth remembering that attackers can use stolen passwords within four hours of stealing them, as well as multi-factor authentication codes.