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Hook, Line, and Sinker – How to Up Your Phishing Game

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  • Published on: January 24, 2022

A flow chart which shows the process that hackers and thieves often execute to achieve the theft of personal information. The chart breaks this down the process into four different individual steps and examples. Step one: the attacker creates a fake webpage. Step two: the attacker sends a link to the victim, which leads to the fake webpage. These two steps are demonstrated by an image of a mask character pushing a large phone with a fake landing or login page pulled up on it to the end user. Step three: the victim opens the fake webpage and submits personal information. This step is depicted by an image of the end user interacting with the thief via the fake landing page. The thief and the user are communicating via their respective mobile devices in the image. Step four: the attacker collects the personal information of the victim. This step is depicted by an image of the thief holding up a magnet in front of the large phone and drawing letters and numbers out of the device which depict large chunks of data and personal information. The process then cycles back to step one which demonstrates the ability of the thief to reuse the same process to steal from another user.”

About 156 million phishing emails are sent around the world every day, so it’s important that you stay vigilant both at work and in your personal lives. As VA’s first line of defense, it’s every employee’s responsibility to be savvy about recognizing phishing attempts and other scams!

Lifecycle of a Phish

Cybercriminals start by choosing someone or a group of people that they want to target and choosing the type of information they want to gain access to. Their goal may be to get Veteran financial or health information, or to release ransomware into a system and demand ransom money from the users.

Attackers often compromise their host with a phishing email. The victim clicks on a malicious link or reveals the information that the attacker is seeking, believing the email is real. Once they bite, the damage is done; there’s no way to return the information or undo that click. It only takes one successful phishing attack to compromise your network and steal your data, so it’s crucial to “Think Before You Click” and avoid falling for phishing attempts in the first place!

What to Do When Something Smells Phish-y

Phishers use emotions like fear, curiosity, urgency, and greed to compel you to open attachments or click on links. The attacks appear to come from real companies or individuals because cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated every day. Never reveal personal or financial information in an email, don’t respond to email solicitations for information, and don’t follow links in emails that you don’t trust. If you’re unsure whether an email is real, try to verify it by contacting the company or sender directly.

Before sending or entering sensitive info in forms or websites online, check the security of the site. Make sure you see https:// in the address; the “s” stands for “secure.” You should also pay close attention to the website’s URL. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL may vary in spelling or be sourced from a different domain.

Some other helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • Use multi-factor authentication on all apps, accounts, and social platforms that offer it
  • Monitor your online accounts regularly
  • Keep your browser, installed programs, and security software updated
  • Don't click on email links from unknown sources
  • Never give out personal information over email
  • Block pop-up windows in your browser and never click links in them
  • Track the latest phishing attacks so you know what to expect

Our commitment to digital and IT transformation is shaped by daily dedication to customer service and the close collaboration of our workforce, managers, and leaders. Ready to join us in improving Veterans’ care? Check out all current information and technology career opportunities on DigitalVA. You can also contact VA’s Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer at 512-326-6600, Monday thru Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST or by submitting a resume to VACareers@va.gov.

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Page last updated on January 24, 2022

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