Phishing is the act of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.
Communications purporting to be from popular social web sites, auction sites, banks, online payment processors or IT administrators are commonly used to lure the unsuspecting public. Phishing emails may contain links to websites that are infected with malware.
Phishing is typically carried out by email spoofing or instant messaging, and it often directs users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one.
Phishing is an example of social engineering techniques used to deceive users, and exploits the poor usability of current web security technologies. Attempts to deal with the growing number of reported phishing incidents include legislation, user training, public awareness, and technical security measures.
A phishing technique was described in detail in 1987, and (according to its creator) the first recorded use of the term "phishing" was made in 1995 by Jason Shannon of AST Computers. The term is a variant of fishing, probably influenced by phreaking, and alludes to "baits" used in hopes that the potential victim will "bite" by clicking a malicious link or opening a malicious attachment, in which case their financial information and passwords may then be stolen.
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