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Phishing and Pharming: 6 Differences That Matter And How You Can Mitigate Both
Phishing and pharming are two separate types of cyberattacks. These web scams are used by criminals to get access to personal information through networks.

Hackers can easily fool people these days, especially when it comes to supplying personal information for online transactions. Phishing is the practice of obtaining a user's personal information by luring them via emails, phone calls, or text messages. Pharming is the act of using DNS servers to redirect a significant number of users to a false site.

These two threats are among the most serious in cyberspace. Scammers adapt their methods to circumvent cyber security even as we strengthen its mechanisms. All these can be mitigated with cloud security solutions on-premise using a sap cloud platform integration.

Graph showing the change in the number of cybercrime victims since 2015 

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Phishing and pharming are both used by attackers to gather sensitive data, although they have key differences.

What is a Phishing Attack in Cyber Security?

Phishing is a fraudulent activity carried out by a cybercriminal or scammer to obtain sensitive data from people, such as financial information and login passwords.

Typically, the perpetrator of a phishing attack will attempt to impersonate a figure of authority like banks, the police, or a government institution. They could also target anyone close to the victim, including close acquaintances or distant relatives.

Phishing attempts can be made over the phone. Nevertheless, fraudsters prefer to use email, messaging apps, and text messages in their devious schemes. The aim is to convince you to reveal personal or financial information, leaving you vulnerable to ransomware attacks as you click on malicious links leading to a phishing website.

They could also try to get you to install malware-infected file attachments containing viruses, keyloggers, or spyware.

What are the Common Types of Phishing Attacks?

Email Phishing

Email is used in the bulk of phishing attacks. We all receive a large number of spam emails every day. Attackers forward requests or malicious links and content to users using phony domain names.

Adding a few characters between the original domain and the phony domain is all it takes for attackers to generate a false domain.

Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is similar to ordinary phishing, except that the fraudster targets a specific set of people or audiences. Someone who specializes in defrauding senior citizens is an example of a spear phisher.

Statistics showing how directed spear phishing can be: 77% of attacks are targeted at 10 mailboxes or less, and 33% are targeted at just one 

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Whaling is among the most common cyberattacks. Professionals with high designations or senior employees are targeted by attackers. The key reason for focusing on senior management is that they have access to a lot of personal information.

The attackers do not exploit malicious links or corrupted files to attack their targets. Instead, they use the information obtained about the victim to convey a truly professional massage.

Deceptive Phishing

Deceptive phishing is the most common sort of phishing, in which scammers pose as legitimate businesses or institutions. For example, a cybercriminal would send an email posing as a bank's IT specialist and urge potential victims to authenticate their accounts or fix a technical fault by clicking on a malicious link.

Clone Phishing

With this type of attack, cybercriminals will replicate authentic messages from respectable businesses and institutions and switch any links or attachments with harmful substitutes. They'll then forward the message to the targets from an address closely resembling the original.

Phishing on Google Docs and Dropbox

This type of phishing isn't limited to Google Docs and Dropbox, but it's been given that term because it gained popularity after targeting users of both services. This type of phishing entails sending messages to users requesting that they input their login credentials on a malicious site to obtain what is described as a new, crucial document that has been added to their accounts.

Smishing and Vishing

Smishing and Vishing are phone-based assaults rather than email-based ones. In smishing, the attacker sends the user a fraudulent message, whereas, in vishing, the attacker conducts a fraudulent phone conversation.

Pie chart showing that smishing is the most common form of mobile-based phishing 

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Phishing Scams: How to Recognise Phishing Messages

The most obvious clue is that you're the target of a phishing scam is receiving an unexpected or strange message from someone you know or an authority figure.

Look out for the following signs to know if you're dealing with a phishing email:

Grammatical errors

Fraudulent messages often have extensive grammatical errors and may not address you directly by name. Some attacks, however, can be quite sophisticated with well-researched and well-written content.

Aggressive language

Messages that have an aggressive and demanding tone, as if they're trying to force you to make a hasty decision.

Red flags on online forums

You can locate forums via Google search where people are complaining about receiving the same message.

Misspelled URLs

Shortened URLs or strange attachments are included in the email (falsely referenced attachment formats).

Requests for confidential information

Messages that insist that you supply personal and financial information to the sender. In some cases, the sender may even request some form of payment.

Phishing Scams: How to Recognise Phishing Websites

You should learn how to recognize a phishing website in addition to phishing messaging. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Misspelled domain names. Watch out for even the smallest deviations or unnecessary additions to the original spelling.
  • There won't be a green padlock icon before the URL. The icon confirms that you are actually connected to the correct website displayed in the address bar and that the connection hasn't been hijacked by a third party.
  • URL addresses start with "HTTP" and not "HTTPS".
  • Tons of shady pop-up messages, banners, and ads.

How to Avoid Phishing Scams

Phishing scams can be a lot more than a pain in the neck. Reversing the financial damage and responding to a data breach can take a lot of time and effort, so it's worth learning how to avoid being a victim.

Here are a few ways to avoid falling victim to a phishing scam:

  • Use industry-specific antivirus software. While common antivirus software is fantastic for private use, a system administrator can consider installing industry-specific antivirus programs that can help prevent phishing emails from corrupting your corporate email system.
  • Check your online accounts regularly to ensure no unauthorized transactions have occurred. Consider using a solution that has an integration with salesforce feature to secure your customer data.
  • Never open or download attachments from unknown senders in an email.
  • Never open links in anonymous emails.
  • Change your passwords frequently.

Password statistics showing how passwords pose real security risks to organizations 

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  • Never share personal information with anonymous web users.
  • Employee PCs should have antivirus software installed especially in a hybrid workforce. Antivirus software checks every file that enters your computer via the Internet.

What is a Pharming Attack in Cyber Security?

Pharming is a cyber attack that, like phishing, aims to steal sensitive private and financial information. Pharming attacks do this by automatically redirecting you to phony and harmful websites, quite different from phishing, which tries to mislead you into visiting them yourself.

To steal user login information such as usernames and passwords, cybercriminals create a fake website that seems almost identical to the actual one.

What are the Common Types of Pharming Attacks?

Hosts File Pharming

This method of pharming begins with a bulk malicious email. Users that engage with it have their host file (the computer file that maps an IP address to a website name) updated to the point where IP addresses now redirect to phishing websites rather than legitimate ones.

Poisoned DNS Servers

Some pharming attacks can "poison" DNS (Domain Name System) servers with vulnerabilities. What exactly does that imply? In essence, fraudsters will change the server's DNS entry, forcing any user that visits that server to be rerouted to a malicious website.

Image showing how DNS poisoning is achieved 

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How Can You Recognise a Pharming Attack?

Most of the warning indicators we covered when discussing phishing are applicable here as well. Always watch out for sketchy emails that try to get you to click on a link or download questionable attachments. Malicious websites also contain the typical red flags, such as misspelled domain names and URLs that start with "HTTP" rather than "HTTPS."

How Can You Protect Yourself from Pharming Attacks?

Again, many of the same points discussed in phishing are relevant here. You're better off avoiding links from anonymous emails and using robust antivirus software or consider solutions like an enterprise integration platform for secure workflow automation. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about poisoned DNS servers because the server administrator is in charge of monitoring its security and performing frequent checks.

Even using a virtual machine (via something like Google Cloud instance types) that protects you from viruses doesn't necessarily stop pharming as they are difficult to detect.

The logical preventive measure is using a trustworthy ISP (Internet Service Provider) that can explain how they protect their DNS servers from pharming attacks. Also, if your ISP provides a WiFi router stated on your general business contract, it's a good idea to look into password resiliency to make life difficult for hackers.

6 Key Differences Between Phishing and Pharming

phishing and pharming chart

Get Started With Safeguarding Your Business

Pharming and phishing attacks are getting harder to detect. When a company is attacked by cybercriminals, it is exposed to a great deal of risk and damage. You should beef up security on your enterprise's networks and email domains by using microservices for legacy software modernization that comes with the best cloud security to thwart these attacks.

Another strategy to prevent cyberattacks is to educate employees about the precautions that must be taken to avoid becoming a victim of one. Recheck links and files before clicking and downloading them, and follow the safety precautions to the letter.



Severine Hierso

Severine Hierso 

Severine Hierso is EMEA Senior Product Marketing Manager for RingCentral Office, the leader in cloud based PBX communications solutions, and is passionate about creating value, differentiation, and messaging, ensuring a better experience for customers and partners. She has gained extensive international Product Marketing, Market Research, Sales Enablement, and Business development experience across SaaS, Telecommunications, Video Conferencing, and Technology sectors within companies such as Sony, Cisco, Cogeco Peer 1, and Dimension Data/NTT. Severine Hierso also published articles for domains such as Recruiterflow and CEO Blog Nation.

Published Tuesday, June 21, 2022 7:30 AM by David Marshall
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