A phishing e-mail is an e-mail sent by a hacker designed to fool the recipient into downloading a virus, giving up their credit card number, personal information (like a social security number), or account or login information to a particular web site. Often these e-mails are well designed to look exactly like an official notification from the site they are trying to emulate.
For example, a recent phishing e-mail was circulated that appeared to come from Facebook stating that videos or photos of Osama Bin Laden’s death were posted online. These e-mails looked exactly like a legitimate Facebook e-mail and even appeared to come from “Facebookmail.com.” Once you clicked on the e-mail the phishing site would attempt to install a virus on your machine.
And now due to recent security breaches with Sony and e-mail marketer Epsilion, phishing attacks are going to increase – and they are going to get more sophisticated and harder to distinguish from legitimate e-mails. That’s because the hackers that were able to access the private databases of the above mentioned companies now have the name, e-mail and interests of the subscribers, and in some cases birthdays, addresses and more. That means a phishing e-mail can be personalized with relevant information that the user provided to Sony, making the e-mail appear to be more legitimate and the user more likely to click on the links provided and take the actions requested. Now more than ever it’s critical that you are wary of e-mail notifications and the actions they request you take. Even having good anti-virus software installed won’t protect you if you give your account information away freely.