What are Phishing Websites and How to Take Them Down?
Phishing is a method of stealing information from targets using online disguises. It’s achieved by using fake websites designed to mimic those from legitimate services. In most cases, phishing scams intend to gain access to usernames, passwords, sensitive information, and financial details of victims.
This kind of activity is widespread on the internet, and it has become a significant security threat for both private individuals and businesses operating in various fields.
The best way to protect your company from phishing attacks is by applying multiple layers of security systems. They should include different web filtering solutions to recognize potential dangers as quickly as possible.
In addition, you can increase awareness within the organization and promote the habit of exercising caution while browsing through certain websites.
What is Phishing?
According to Wikipedia, the word “phishing” itself comes from fishing metaphor, and it’s defined as “the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.”
The term was coined when we witnessed the first recorded scam designed to dupe people into revealing personal and financial details via email.
Even though numerous scams like this one rely on basic social engineering tactics like spam emails or suspicious pop-up ads that imitate system warning messages, some more complex ploys are also applied today by cybercriminals. Even some large organizations have suffered from these sophisticated phishing attacks.
Taking down a phishing website is not as simple as it seems to be. You should know that this process requires both time and technical expertise.
During the last couple of years, the number of dedicated initiatives designed to fight phishing activity has increased dramatically worldwide due to security concerns related to potential financial losses and sensitive information leaks.
However, with more than 1 billion unique users per month (and most likely hundreds of thousands of phishing pages), the battle is still looming in the internet arena.
If your business operates in an industry that’s closely connected with money or private data (for example, banking, e-commerce websites, etc.), you’ll need to develop a solid anti-phishing policy to secure your organization against potential threats.
Cybercriminals use phishing websites to gain access to sensitive information when browsing through them is done with already stolen accounts, devices, or browsers.
Phishing also allows criminals to receive notifications about important events related to their victim’s account (e.g., password change). In addition, phishers may use compromised computers in botnets for distributed denial of service attacks that take down legitimate sites.
What Are Phishing Websites?
As you might guess, phishing websites closely mimic the original ones used daily by millions of users worldwide to trick people into revealing their details and financial (usernames, passwords, etc.) or sensitive information (e.g., social security number).
These scams usually use URLs that closely resemble those of legitimate websites. This is why it’s vital to learn more about cybercriminals’ tactics and how they operate phishing attacks.
There are many similarities between regular and fake sites:
- They both look alike.
- Hosting providers used by criminals mimic those of genuine companies.
- Registration details for web servers stay the same.
- The content of both types of pages remains very close as well. However, criminals may substitute original images with pornographic material to trick young adults into opening the page.
How Do Phishing Websites Work?
Phishing websites function by manipulating users’ trust and redirecting them to legitimate login pages (e.g., https://www.facebook.com/login.php). At this stage, criminals usually send a simple spam email advising victims about an alleged problem and instructing them how to fix it quickly (e.g., your account was hacked, click here to secure it!).
These scam messages may also include links that point directly towards phishing sites that closely resemble Facebook’s actual login page to capture user names, passwords, or credit card details after entering such information on fake sites’ forms and clicking the “Log In” button.
In addition, criminals may use popular social networks to spread their scams. For example, they may register a new account and post messages about “winning an iPhone” or other raffles requiring personal data (e.g., full name, date of birth, etc.).
After submitting this information on the web page created by scammers, victims automatically subscribe to newsletters containing phishing links or malware downloads. Such emails include pictures and look very convincing because the sender’s address is usually close to the company’s official one or identical to it.
If you notice any suspicious emails sent through your business account, blacklist specific addresses from your spam filter as soon as possible to avoid potential losses! Remember that spam filters can help you reduce the number of scam emails within your organization, thus making it easier to cope with phishing attempts.
How Can Phishing Websites Be Taken Down?
So, how can you protect yourself against these scams? The answer is straightforward: install antivirus software on all of your devices and keep it up-to-date at all times. If you use a business computer or mobile phone for browsing social networks, make sure that it’s protected by efficient security solutions too!
Besides, don’t forget about other endpoints usually not covered by virus protection software. This is why employees need to be trained to avoid dangerous websites before using any business device for online banking, shopping, or other tasks involving company accounts.
In case a business has been attacked, the first thing it must do for a phishing takedown is informing its ISP by sending an abuse report. There are two efficient options to choose from:
- Spamhaus ZEN service: It contains the most up-to-date spam blacklists and provides a straightforward way of reporting spam activity.
- Abuse Form on Google’s website: This choice is not as popular as the first one but still efficient if you want to keep your business safe from cybercriminals.
However, for either of these methods to be effective against phishing attempts performed from your servers, you need to perform regular backlinking and remove malicious emails (or URLs) from your inbox. If you cannot do so correctly, consider hiring an external phishing domain takedown service that will regularly clean up your email account for an affordable price.
How Can You Protect Your Business From Phishing?
Before thinking about ways to protect yourself (or your business) against phishing scams, it’s essential to be aware of the most common examples that criminals worldwide currently use. Here are some tasks that can help you avoid each type of scam:
- Perform regular backlinking.
- Check links in emails before clicking on them (e.g., hover your mouse over any suspicious hyperlink and make sure it isn’t hiding anything else!).
- Use spam filters, blacklists, etc., to reduce the number of spam emails within your organization.
- Keep antivirus software up-to-date at all times.
With proper training, employees can also be taught how to avoid phishing attacks that cybercriminals are currently using for exploiting people’s ignorance or greed. Here are some examples of common scenarios:
Scenario #1: The sender claims you’ve won a prize, but first, you need to submit your details to receive it. The easiest way to ensure this is not a scam email is to check if other people around you have won the same competition!
Scenario #2: You receive an email with a link pointing towards “Facebook,” which looks very similar to the original one. The sender claims you need to log in because your account is locked for security reasons.
To ensure the sender’s email is legitimate, open Facebook on another device and use the “forgot password?” function to recover access without giving out any information!
Scenario #3: You receive an email from your bank asking to update personal details via a hidden link, e.g., address or phone number. Always contact your financial institution directly by logging into their official website instead of following suspicious links that may lead to phishing websites that look very similar to the original one.
Phishing scams are widespread these days, so it’s essential to take measures against them as soon as possible! Keep antivirus software up-to-date, train employees to avoid phishing emails and websites, secure business devices with robust antivirus solutions. To sum it up, prevent any malware infection by taking down phishing websites before it’s too late!