Are you smarter than the AP?

Are you smart enough to delete the many phishing e-mails that end up in your inbox? Or might you mistakenly click on one? The majority of us think that we’re smart enough to steer clear of falling for online scams. But that might not be the truth. Scammers are becoming trickier all the time. A recent story by Slate covered the phishing attack that caused serious problems for the Associated Press, the country’s top provider of wire-service news. And the attack provides an important lesson: None of us are really safe from online scammers.

The AP attack

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 was seriously injured in an explosion at the White House. This Tweet was false, needless to say. But that didn’t stop the stock market from having a big drop. It shows, too, that even the savviest of us need to be on guard from sophisticated phishing attacks.

A real news story?

How did this attack succeed? Hackers sent legitimate-looking e-mail messages to AP staffers directing them to what was said to be an important news story in the Washington Post. The phishing e-mail was professional enough that some AP staffers clicked on it, starting the process that gave the Syrian Electronic Army control over the company’s Twitter account. AP was forced to de-activate its Twitter account in response.

Be aware

It’s easy to poke fun at the AP for getting hacked. But the truth is, no one is safe from the more advanced con artists behind the latest phishing attacks. These scammers no longer send phishing e-mails about Nigerian princes. Instead, they send out messages that appear like they’re from people we know. The lesson here? You need to be continuously vigilant in order to protect yourself from today’s trickiest online scammers.

Posted on: 05.17.13