“You’ve got mail,” doesn’t have the same ring as it used to. Today, we receive more electronic mail than ever; however, only a small amount of what’s received is expected to be there. Although securing the inbox has never been the primary purpose of electronic mail, platforms have begun taking initiatives to do so as phishing is on the rise. In the mind of a layman, terms such as “phishing,” “spam,” and “virus” are most likely interchangeable. While the terms are very similar, they are more-so layers of a cake- a domino effect. Today, phishing is on the rise, and at its peak use since its invention. The key to protecting your information from phishing is understanding it. Let’s begin with a few statistics.
We’re facing an epidemic. Malicious phishing attacks are on the rise by 250%. So what does this realistically look like? A massive amount of spam distracting you from what you’re logging in to see from your inbox. Today, spam makes up over half of emails as 92% of malware is delivered via email. How we got to the point of normalizing and accepting the frequency of spam is an interesting conversation, as well.
In short, phishing derived from spam - not to be confused with ‘scamming.’ In other words, phishing is a type of spamming, used when attempting to steal information. Spamming someone is the method of repetitive email sending. Any good spam email will look like an advertisement, posing to be something real enough to fool you into clicking. A spam email will typically lure you into clicking a link, auto-downloading viruses on your computer in attempts to steal, or scam you for your information. This is the act of phishing.
The most common way to spam is, of course, digitally, since doing so in-person wouldn’t be so anonymous - not to mention the courage that would take. Phishing made its way into the body of an email in the 1990s after spamming became an infamous method of pranking and a way for marketers to reach a larger audience at once. Since email was never designed to be secure, spam grew from a simple annoyance to a security threat - hence, the fault of phishing.
As a result, hackers have been improving their methods of phishing to look more and more real in attempts to steal user information: credit cards, social security numbers, access to email content, and the list goes on. Technology has transcended into the “cloud storage” phase; however, phishing is one step ahead, finding victims in this realm, as well.
Today, most email platforms have a great way of filtering out junk mail; however, there are still messages that make their way to your primary inbox. In 2018, the FBI received nearly 50,000 reports of phishing and compromised email - costing a total of $1.8 billion. Saying this, 1 in 4 are affected by the theft of data stored on clouds, and nearly 4.7 billion phishing emails are sent on a daily basis. The history of phishing is not as complex as it sounds, and understanding it as described in the infographic below can save you from becoming a victim.