Stay ahead of the phishers

How to get better anti-phishing protection by understanding criminals' motives

Phishing attacks are very prevalent because they are cheap and easy to execute and have a high success rate. It is exactly this good return on investment for the criminals that will keep us being plagued with phishing for many years to come. Taking proper security measures is very important.

One of the measures is training people on recognizing phishing mails or text messages by identifying if they contain malicious patterns. What’s often missing in these awareness sessions is highlighting the events that trigger criminals to start a phishing campaign. It’s important to understand these triggers to put up a better defence.

Major incidents

In the aftermath of a major incident, like for instance a natural disaster, we often see a lot of phishing and spam attacks. A fairly recent example is hurricane Harvey, the storm that devastated parts of Texas last year. Criminals took advantage of people’s misery and the goodwill of others to help them, to steal credit card info and personal data. 

Popular events

Phishing campaigns are not limited to incidents only. Think for instance about major events like the Olympic Games, the Fifa World Cup or a pop concert. There’s a lot of interest in these events and there’s often scarcity of tickets. These are very good conditions for successful phishing campaigns.

Be careful it’s the phishing season 

During certain recurring events, like the yearly tax declaration season, we see a rise in phishing mails. The same is for instance true in the sales period or the period around black Friday. Crooks abuse the fact that people are often less suspicious when they receive mails related to these events.

In the aftermath of a data breach

When a website suffers a data breach, criminals often get their hands on email addresses or phone numbers of the website’s users. One of the ways in which they abuse this info is by mailing or texting fake password reset links to the victims of the breach. Before clicking on a password reset link, check online if the website got breached and if your account is involved. Have I been pwned is a great, free online service exactly made for this purpose. Even if the website was hacked, don’t execute the password reset via the received link, but navigate directly to the website via the browser. This is the only way to be really sure you’re on the legitimate website and that it’s safe to change your password.

Or even just after an online order.

One of the most recent examples of phishing scams that hit the media is being targeted by hackers. It was a quite clever attack, the hackers first phished hotels and guest houses featured on to steal their customers’ data. They then used these data to make the phishing mails sent to the customers look more legit.


It’s important to understand that criminals will exploit any opportunity to trick people into giving away valuable things like personal or credit card data. As we have seen there are certain events that trigger online criminals to set up phishing campaigns. Once you understand these particular triggers, you’ll be much better equipped to defend against such attacks. 


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