We would all like to think that we’re clever enough to detect phishing e-mails in our inboxes. Some of them are easy to spot. But the scam artists behind phishing e-mails are getting better. And that means that they’re netting some high-profile victims. For instance, as Slate recently reported, a particularly sneaky phishing e-mail recently caused a lot of trouble for the Associated Press, the country’s biggest provider of wire-service news.
Syrian Electronic Army
Earlier this year, a group calling itself the Syrian Electronic Army hacked into the Twitter account of the AP and posted a message stating that President Obama had been seriously injured in an explosion at the White House. This Tweet was false, of course. But that didn’t stop the stock market from taking a big plunge. And it shows, too, that even the savviest among us have to be on guard from sophisticated phishing attacks.
The Syrian Electronic Army hacked the AP Twitter account through a process known as spear-phishing. As Slate explains, this involves sending specific recipients e-mail messages that look legitimate. In the case of the AP hack, the group sent a message to AP staffers containing a link to what looked like a Washington Post news story. The message looked professional enough that it tricked some AP staffers into clicking on it, the first step in giving members of the Syrian Electronic Army control over the AP’s Twitter account.
It’s easy to poke fun at the AP for getting hacked. But the truth is, no one is safe from the more sophisticated con artists behind the newest phishing attacks. These scammers no longer send phishing e-mails about Nigerian princes. Instead, they send messages that look like they’re coming from people we know. The lesson here? You need to be constantly vigilant if you want to protect yourself from today’s trickiest online scammers.