Phishing uses scam emails to convince you to click on a malicious attachment or link. The emails may look legitimate and appear to come from senders you know, such as a financial institution, a software or hardware provider, other reputable organizations or individuals in your company or professional network.
The goal is to get you to download an attachment or click on a link to complete a seemingly urgent request. These attachments often bypass security and anti-virus programs by using Microsoft Office macros that download malware if they are run.
Links may connect to seemingly legitimate websites, which exploit vulnerabilities in your computer to install malicious code. Alternatively, these webpages may simply trick you into entering personal information, such as usernames and passwords, that can then be used to access sensitive financial, customer or personal data.
Sophisticated attackers aim convincing spear phishing emails at carefully selected individuals, researching recipients through social media, LinkedIn and other publicly available data online. These emails seem to be from an individual that you know and trust, making it more likely that you will click on the link, download the attachment or otherwise open your system to vulnerability.
High-volume phishing, on the other hand, targets as many recipients as possible – of whom only a tiny percentage have to be caught for possible success. Fake invoices, delivery notifications, receipts and banking updates can all be used as lures in these attempts.