When 50 financial institutions across the US, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region shut down, the reason was a “pharming” attack. For each of the targeted financial institutions, hackers had created a look-alike website, which fooled customers and led to malware downloads.
Why it matters
Although the aforementioned anecdote is from 2007, the threat remains real. Pharming attacks can disrupt business operations, undermine client trust, and tarnish reputations.
Pharming vs phishing? The two are similar but different. Discover in-depth information surrounding the details below.
The terms ‘phishing’ and ‘pharming’ derive from the traditional occupations, ‘fishing’ and ‘farming’.
In the context of cyber security, the two terms refer to types of scams that cyber criminals use for the purpose of manipulating people.
At the end of the day, “pharming” scams and “phishing” scams are based around the same goal – surreptitiously acquiring valuable information from unsuspecting persons.
Nonetheless, pharming and phishing operate somewhat distinctly from one another. In the article below, you’ll find information that will help you differentiate between the two, and prevent both types of attacks.
What is pharming?
Pharming occurs when cyber criminals propagate malicious code in such a way as to redirect targets to malicious websites. In many cases, malicious websites overtly appear legitimate. They contain the right logo, brand colors, formatting, product information…etc.
However, these fake websites typically parse users’ login credentials, banking information or other personal data.
In other words, pharming attacks harvest credentials or personal details via spoofed web addresses.
Amidst pharming attacks, legitimate websites may be hijacked. Hackers may coopt them so that they successfully steal user information. For your everyday internet surfer, pharming attacks are relatively dangerous, as the likelihood of independently detecting such an attack is relatively low.
What is phishing?
Phishing is a form of manipulation that aims to coerce people into sharing personal and confidential information. These types of emails appear in so many different forms that security apparatuses often struggle to keep up with the latest types of threats.
For a phishing operation to work, unsuspecting individuals must accidentally click on a malicious link or attachment. Once the malicious content has been opened, hackers gain access to information or can obtain illicit network access.
While phishing primarily concerns email, phishing attacks can also occur on smart phones, and via other mediums. For example, phishers are known for sending text messages impersonating major institutions or corporations in order to fool individuals into divulging private details.
Pharming vs phishing
Although both pharming and phishing attacks can leverage spoofed domains, each attack does so in a different way.
In order to drill into the details, it helps to know a bit about how the Domain Name System (DNS) works. Pharming scams are executed through the misuse of the DNS, while phishing attacks may simply use spoofed websites that look legitimate to users.
- Phishing uses fake links. Pharming relies on the DNS server to redirect users to fake websites. Successful DNS attacks divert the fundamental flow of traffic to a website.
- Pharming relies on DNS hijacking, DNS cache poisoning, and DNS spoofing.
- Because pharming attacks are executed on the DNS level, they are more challenging to detect than traditional phishing attempts.
- Phishing is the top social engineering tactic used by cyber attackers due to its versatility, stealth, evasion capabilities, and overall effectiveness.
How to avoid pharming and phishing
Is it really pharming vs phishing? Both attack types are evolving, and organizations need to be prepared.
To protect your organization, invest in reputable phishing prevention and security solutions; from products like zero-phishing to Check Point Harmony. The best means of combatting sophisticated cyber threats is through the use of advanced security technologies.
For more information about phishing, see CyberTalk.org’s past phishing coverage.