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Knowing the River

My angling career never got beyond splashing ineffectually after minnows with a net and then reading a couple of books on the subject and avidly browsing rods and reels in mail order catalogues. Therefore, I don’t write as an expert but I have a feeling that one of the skills to learn was to know the river you were fishing in. What kind of fish lived in there? Where did they hide? What did they like to eat?

The same is probably true of phishing – attempts to trick you into giving away keys to your online identity or to activate a malicious program on your computer. Again, my knowledge of going phishing is theoretical but I understand this one better from having been in the digital river where there seems to be a continual shower of tasty-looking morsels with concealed hooks. Sometimes these rely on chance, such as as message that might claim to reveal a problem with your bank account – possibly tempting if you bank with the institution chosen as the mask but otherwise merely annoying. However, sometimes they display a frightening degree of knowledge – for example, at work we have recently had an upgrade to our email system and I had to warn colleagues to be suspicious even of apparently helpful emails about the migration process as not all of these were coming from IT support.

If you want to stay safely in the river and avoid being pulled out and left high and dry on the bank, you have to learn to be wary. With emails, ponder if you expected that message from that person at that time – immediate alarm bells if it doesn’t come from someone you know but be cautious about even going as far as trusting who it says it comes from. Be doubly careful of links – hover over them before you click and hold back if you aren’t completely sure they go where they ought to. And, as for quizzes on Facebook which involve parts of your date of birth, your middle name or other things that might feature in security questions, answer them in your head if you must but resist putting your fingers anywhere near the keyboard.

There are, alas, plenty of people trying to phish in the river and, the better informed they become, the more dangerous they are.

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