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Oops, I Clicked on a Phishing Link!

Oops, I Clicked on a Phishing Link!

Psst: CISOs and experts, this is one of our beginner-oriented articles! If you're looking for more advanced material, we recommend a dive into the blog archives! 


So, you’ve accidentally clicked on a phishing link?

Buckle up, buttercup, because this could be a wild ride.

Joking over, let’s get serious about this to protect your safety. First, don’t panic. Second, don't punch us in the face for giving that advice. We understand that it's natural to panic in this situation.

(We’re sorry we hit you with that sassy buttercup line.)

When things happen like this, it can be scary, but we’ve got some solid advice for you.

Bad actors send phishing emails with one of two aims.

The first is to get you to submit personal information.

The second is to get you to download a malicious file.

Let’s break down how to confirm what you did was part of a phishing attempt, how to respond immediately, and what to do if your information is compromised.

How Do You Tell It was Actually a Phishing Link?

To confirm you are dealing with a phishing attempt, you can look for these common red flags:

  1. Check inconsistencies in the sender’s email address, URL, and domain name before clicking any link – watch out for slight misspellings or urgent requests that don’t make sense.
  2. Hover over any hyperlinks with your mouse cursor before you click them in order to preview the URL and ensure you recognize where it’s linking you to.
  3. Look to the left side of the URL of a web page to check if there is a lock symbol. Oftentimes, phishing sites will not use legitimate SSL certificates, resulting in the lock symbol becoming red. The presence of a green lock symbol doesn’t automatically mean the site is legitimate, however, as the lock merely means communication is encrypted.
  4. If it’s too good to be true–like an offer from your bank to take you on an all-inclusive cruise if you log into their site right now–it probably is. Stay away from outrageous offers that push you to act immediately

Don't Interact More (Even if you are Scared)

So, you’ve confirmed it was a phishing link that you accidentally clicked on. Going forward, best practice says to treat ALL links in emails and texts with suspciosn. 

It is important not to interact further if you have clicked on a phishing link or downloaded a potentially malicious file. An attachment may have downloaded without your knowledge. Stay vigilant and safeguard your privacy and security online by responding calmly. 

To prevent additional damage, avoid clicking, installing, launching, deleting, renaming or undertaking any other action with the potentially suspicious file. Instead, reach out to your security team and promptly follow their protocol for managing and investigating the issue. 

If you have a reputable malware search software, you can even scan your system for malware. In some scenarios, it may make sense to disconnect your device from the internet. 

If the phishing link came through a text message, you should know that mobile devices can get malware just like desktop computers. In fact, personal mobile devices are often being targeted with banking trojans – malware design to login to banking apps on phone and drain bank accounts.

When the Scammers Get Your Information

Did you provide any Personally Identifiable Information (PII)?
If you clicked on a link and gave personal information or credentials on a fake page, take action right away after leaving the phishing site. Change your passwords. Contact your security team for further advice.

Pro Tip: any page that asks for credentials – particularly Office 365 or email credentials – should immediately raise alarm bells. Report it to the IT team.

Remember that attackers usually know if you have clicked their link. This makes you a potential target for further phishing attempts. Attackers can obtain data about you, like your IP address. They can also identify which application you used to open the link, such as Firefox or Chrome. Be extra cautious, and do not interact with any communication that appears suspicious or questionable. Let's stick with our current pals for now, but we're always down to make some new ones later on. 😉

Other steps to take if you believe your information has been compromised:

    1. Enable Two-factor Authentication – To add an extra layer of security to your accounts, enable two-factor authentication on key accounts like email and banking services. This requires anyone accessing the account to provide additional proof of identity such as a code generated by a mobile app or received via email or text message before they can get in.

    2. Monitor Your Credit Report – Request copies of your credit report from the three major bureaus–Equifax, Experian and Transunion–to make sure there are no suspicious activities connected with them.

    3. Stay Vigilant For Suspicious Activity – Keep tabs on unusual activity related to any online accounts for which you have responsibility (e.g., PayPal) or potential fraud-related charges linked to any credit cards linked to those accounts.

    4. Rely on Resources – Finally, don’t hesitate to seek help if needed; there are numerous organizations dedicated to helping individuals affected by identity theft and other forms of information compromise recover their data and restore their digital security including the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft website (www. ftc.gov/idtheft).

Conclusion: Stay Vigilant, Report it fast

What’s the lesson here for better cybersecurity and a safer, secure future? Be careful what links you click, and don't trust just any login page. As for the cybercriminals out there, maybe it's time for a career change? I hear there's a need for IT professionals these days...

If you’re looking for cybersecurity training and a platform that works, we can help.

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