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February 24, 2017

Phishing—Don't Get Hooked!

Phishing attacks happen every day and anyone can be a target. By knowing the dangers that exist when using the internet and email, you can better protect yourself.


The internet has many associated dangers, including viruses, malware, password theft, and more. So how do cybercriminals catch you with these hazards? By far, the most popular and successful means is phishing.

What is phishing?

Phishing is the method of sending email with links or attachments that download malicious content to your computer. These emails are disguised to look like they come from well-known or trusted recipients so that you feel comfortable opening attachments or clicking on the included links. Once the content is downloaded, the cybercriminal can use and control information on your computer.

For example, ransomware is a type of malware that cybercriminals can download on your computer through phishing. This malware encrypts, or locks down, all of your files and demands payment to unlock those files. Ransomware crimes have increased recently.

How can I prevent this?

While most email providers have built-in protections that scan for and eliminate phishing emails, some dangerous emails can still make it to your inbox. The last line of defense is always user awareness. Always be sure to:

  • Double-check email addresses. Oftentimes, email names like outlook.com or gmail.com are misspelled to closely resemble well-known names. Outlook.com looks very similar to outIook.com, even though the latter uses a capital “i” instead of a lowercase “l”.
  • Handle attachments with extreme caution. If possible, verify with the trusted sender that the attachment was expected. If the email has a link to a webpage, you can hover your mouse pointer over the link to display the intended destination. If the text shows one website, but the destination is another, you should avoid clicking on the link.

If you find that your account’s security has been compromised, please be sure to  report it to MIDFLORIDA right away.

Article by Bobby Hiers, MIDFLORIDA’s Assistant Vice President of IT Security. With more than 20 years of experience in Information Technology, Bobby works in our IT department maintaining the security of the network and computer systems.