Warning Signs of Pharming and How to Protect Your Device
No one is safe online, and no one has ever been. Since the inception of the internet, scammers have been trying to trick online users into giving them access to their devices. The goal is simple: to steal personal information to later commit identity theft.
In September 2021, as stated by Powerdmarc, more than 50 companies were victims of a pharming attack that was aimed at online customers in Europe, United States, and APAC region, which proves that even financial companies face security challenges, let alone internet users who don’t have enough knowledge about how to protect themselves online.
Warning Sign of Pharming
Pharming is a unique cyberattack where hackers hijack your router or modem and divert you to malicious sites whenever you search even for a legitimate web address. As technology advances, cybercriminals are equally creating new measures to exploit vulnerabilities in devices. It is crucial to stay vigilant and familiarize yourself with the warning signs of an attacked gadget.
That said, here are pharming signs you need to know.
1. Unusual Pop-Up Messages or Browser Redirects
One of the clear indications that you may have been attacked is encountering frequent and unexpected website redirections. If you notice that you are being diverted to unfamiliar or suspicious websites, it could be a sign that your gadget's DNS settings have been compromised. Additionally, a sudden increase in pop-up ads and unsolicited browser notifications may also point toward a phishing attack.
2. Slow Internet or Apps
Another alarming sign to watch out for is a significant decrease in your device's overall performance. If your once speedy gadget becomes sluggish, experiences frequent crashes, or takes an unusually long time to load applications and websites, this could be a malware attack. Cybercriminals often exploit vulnerabilities in devices’ systems by installing malicious software that disrupts the device's normal functioning. This pharming malware often runs in the background, slowing down your connection or causing apps to lag.
3. Suspicious Account Activity
Pharming malware often targets people’s confidential account information. Look out for unknown logins, messages you did not send, or charges you did not make. Also, you should pay attention to unauthorized changes in your gadget's settings or unusual account activities. If your passwords have been changed suddenly, your email or social media accounts have been accessed without your knowledge, or unknown software has been installed on your gadget, you must act immediately. These irregularities can result from a phishing attempt to steal your sensitive data or obtain illegal access to your accounts.
4. Disabled Antivirus or Anti-Malware Software
Cybercriminals often attempt to turn off security measures such as spyware programs to carry out their malicious activities. Moreover, this malware will disable security protocols to avoid detection. Therefore, if you discover that your security software has been abruptly disabled, this could mean that you're at risk of an attack.
5. Excessive Data Usage
Keep an eye on how your monthly data is being used. A sudden and unexplained increase in data usage could be a sign that malicious software is running in the background, potentially sending your personal information to unauthorized sources.
How to Protect Yourself from Pharming
As online threats evolve, you must proactively safeguard your gadgets against potential risks, particularly pharming attacks. These attacks can be difficult to detect, but with the help of the above information, you can understand what is wrong. If you notice anything, here's what you need to do:
1. Monitor Accounts Closely
To catch pharming incidents early, you must regularly monitor your device for unusual activities. Pay close attention to your online accounts and social media platforms. Look for signs of unauthorized access, like resetting passwords you did not change or messages you did not send. This goes a long way in protecting you from potential attacks.
2. Set Unique Passwords
It is crucial to strengthen your online security with strong and original passcodes. Choose complicated passwords incorporating different characters, and avoid using the same ones on several accounts. To create and store login credentials, think about using a password manager. This helps prevent phishing attacks and lowers the danger of illegal account access.
3. Update Software Regularly
Cybercriminals frequently exploit vulnerabilities in outdated software to distribute malware and gain access to systems. Ensure you upgrade your apps and software as soon as they are released, especially critical security patches. This includes upgrading your web browser, operating system, and any other software on your gadgets. Additionally, consider enabling automatic updates to streamline this process and minimize the risk of oversight.
4. Use Firewall
A firewall is a barrier between your device and potential threats that monitors incoming and outgoing network traffic. Implementing a robust firewall solution can add an extra layer of protection to your gadget. Securely configuring your firewall settings can better safeguard your gadget from pharming attacks and other cyber threats.
5. Be Cautious of Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi networks are a prime target for pharming attacks. Hackers set up fake networks with names similar to legitimate ones to trick you into connecting. Avoid conducting sensitive online activities like money transfer, banking, or bill paying on public Wi-Fi. If you must use a public network, make sure you are connecting to the official one and use a VPN for added security.
6. Strengthen Your Device's DNS Setting
Another crucial step is to review and strengthen your device's DNS settings regularly. By verifying that your DNS server addresses are genuine and secure, you reduce the risk of falling victim to pharming attacks. Consult your internet service provider or a trustworthy professional to ensure your DNS settings are well configured.
7. Avoid Suspicious Links
It’s no surprise that scammers use malicious links to direct internet users to spoofed websites. The second you fall for this, all your personal information becomes at risk, which could be easily avoided. Clicking on links from people you don’t know equals putting your personal information in danger. You need to know exactly who’s sending you links, and Nuwber, a people search website, can help you with it.
Staying vigilant and taking proactive steps to secure your digital self can help reduce the risk of pharming and other cyber threats. No one is immune to attacks, so prioritize your security and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Staying safe online takes work, but the above tried and tested tips will become your second nature over time.