Is Online Conveyancing safe?

It is second nature these days to use the internet to research and purchase nearly all types of services and products. Conveyancing is no exception: it is simple and straightforward to compare conveyancing solicitors and it may come as a surprise that there are a growing number of conveyancing firms which offer an entirely online conveyancing service. This means that remote communications will be maintained with your conveyancer who may be located some distance away, with details being communicated over the phone, via email and occasionally via online business portals. The conveyancing process doesn’t necessarily become digital rather it is a reference to the method of communications a firm makes.

There are obvious pros and cons to online conveyancing: many people worry that an online service is not safe, that their personal and financial details will not be secure enough. One online phenomenon in particular which people are becoming more aware of is phishing. What follows is an article which explains exactly what phishing is and how to protect yourself against it. When comparing online conveyancing solicitors, always ask them to explain their security measures to you.

What Is Phishing?

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Phishing is a cyber-attack where hackers pretend to be a legitimate person or organization to steal sensitive information such as financial information or passwords. A phishing attack is a type of social engineering attack, which relies on human behavior, relationships, and emotions and is much harder to defend against than technical hacks. Phishing dates as far back as the 1990s and can be executed across many avenues including email, telephone, web, and in person. The most effective defense against phishing is understanding what a phishing attack is, the characteristics of such attacks, and the methods to defend against them.

Types of phishing attacks

Based on purpose:

Download malware

Such attacks aim to get the intended target to download malware to their device. Over 90% of ransomware attacks in 2016 were phishing emails that used this approach on their targets, according to a report by PhishMe. The information is often sent via email, and the content is usually edited enough according to the target’s interests.

Hand over sensitive information

Such attacks aim to get the intended target to hand over confidential information such as passwords and financial details. Instead of sending files to the target, these attacks request the target to follow links, which redirect the individual to a cloned site through phishing kits. For instance, they could clone your bank’s website and redirect you after which they could steal your login details and use those on the original site.

Based on the target:

Regular phishing

Regular phishing has no target in mind and is sent to multiple parties. You can view it as throwing out the bait and waiting for the targets to bite. The messages are often impersonal and less sophisticated. Examples include tech support scams and fake invoices. 

Spear phishing

Spear phishing is an attack that’s designed and aimed at a specific individual. The hacker takes the time to learn about the target and devise a phishing attack that’s tailor-made for that particular individual. Often the message is carefully constructed, so it appears to come from an acquaintance of the target. For instance, the message could appear to come from a co-worker in a different department.

Whale phishing
Whale phishing or whaling is much like spear phishing with the only difference being the status of the targets. Whaling targets high-value targets, especially with the hope of a high payout. The messages are personal and sophisticated, so they have a surprisingly high success rate.

How to protect yourself against phishing attacks

Social engineering attacks are challenging to defend yourself against since they prey on emotions. Nevertheless, so long as you are aware of the existence of such attacks, you can prepare a proper strategy. You need to train yourself to doubt the messages that you receive, whether via phone, email, text or even in person. In an organization, the employees should all undergo training on phishing to understand the types of attacks and their characteristics so they can easily identify them when targeted.

You should install cybersecurity measures such as spam filters, antivirus, and password managers. Where possible, you should always encrypt your messages, especially organizational messages and sensitive information. Double-checking the URLs that you visit and using web filters to weed out malicious sites should also come in handy. To avoid being lured into clicking on the wrong websites, you should make it a habit to visit sites after you set bookmarks of all the essential sites. 

The Takeaway

There was a time that phishing attacks were defined as having typos and lacking in proper grammar. However, these characteristics are long gone, and phishing attacks have evolved to using sophisticated and quality messages. Moreover, some of the methods of defending against such attacks may have already been circumvented by hackers. Therefore, you should try to ensure that your information remains up to date. Having updated information allows you to be prepared for any changes that may occur in phishing attacks. 

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