In late November, the FBI issued a public warning to consumers about the anticipated prevalence of brand phishing this holiday season.
What is Brand Phishing?
Brand Phishing involves the use of targeted communications—primarily via email and text message—that trick someone into clicking on a link. From there, you are taken to a webpage that looks almost identical to a popular brand-name website (ex. Amazon, Microsoft, Best Buy, Google, etc.). You’re then encouraged to log in with your credentials.
When you attempt to log in, the hackers capture your username and password, which they can then use to log into the real website. Often, they’ll subsequently attempt to use those same credentials to log into other popular sites and services (like Gmail). Once they’re in, they can change your password, update contact information, and perform unauthorized transactions.
Other forms of phishing communications may encourage you to open an attachment or to perform a download. In these scenarios, the hackers are usually trying to take over your computer. Sometimes, they’ll hold your computer’s files for ransom.
How can you protect yourself?
At all times—and in particular this holiday season—I’d encourage you to be careful when conducting any kind of business online.
- When you receive an email (or text) that is encouraging you to click on a link, I’d recommend opening a browser session, typing the web address into the URL box, and going directly to the company’s website. Don’t click on the link.
- Don’t use the same password on multiple apps, websites, and platforms. In the event that one of your passwords becomes compromised, you can limit your exposure by having unique passwords for other sites.
By keeping these two cyber security principles in mind, you can help ensure that you and your family have a safe, online experience this holiday season.
About the Author:
Rusty Haferkamp is the chief information officer for Central National Bank. In his spare time, he enjoys being outdoors, hunting, fishing, and spending time with his wife and two daughters.