Navigating the Cyber Seas: A Practical Guide to Phishing Attacks and How to Stay Afloat 


In the fast-paced, interconnected world we live in today, the internet is an integral part of our daily lives. It’s like the ocean we navigate every day, with numerous destinations at the tip of our fingers.  

 But just as the ocean holds hidden dangers beneath its surface, the internet too is riddled with unseen threats.  

 One such threat we often hear about is ‘phishing’. Understanding this term is key to ensuring our online safety.  

 Let’s unravel this concept, break it down, and provide a practical guide to identifying and avoiding these potential threats. 


Phishing in a Nutshell 

At its core, phishing is a type of cyberattack.  

 Cybercriminals masquerading as trustworthy entities send out deceptive messages, usually via email or text messages. Their goal?  

 To trick you into revealing sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, credit card details and more.  

 Let’s look more closely at different types of phishing attacks, complete with real-life examples. 


Types of Phishing and Notable Examples 


  1. Email Phishing


In 2022, a widespread phishing email scam aimed at PayPal users made its way into many unsuspecting inboxes.  

 The email, designed to mimic official correspondence from PayPal, claimed that user accounts were deactivated and required immediate action to be reactivated.  

 This action involved clicking a link embedded in the email. Instead of leading to PayPal, however, this link redirected users to a malicious website crafted to steal personal information.  

 To learn more about this and other phishing email examples, check out this resource from Terranova Security. 


  1. Spear Phishing


Spear phishing attacks take a more targeted approach. Let’s consider a case from 2022, where a spear-phishing attack targeted specific individuals within organisations.  

 Intriguingly, these attackers personalised their emails, making their malicious intent even harder to spot.  

 The end goal was the same – to trick recipients into clicking a malicious URL or email attachment, thus stealing their personal data.  

 To find out more about this and other common phishing attacks, visit this article from Tripwire. 


  1. Whaling


Whaling attacks are like spear phishing but are aimed at the big fish – high-profile executives from various industries.  

 Cybercriminals tailored their emails to include information about the executive and their company, often making the messages appear urgent and potentially disastrous, to pressure the recipients into acting hastily. 

 For a deeper understanding of what whaling is, refer to this article by Dataconomy. 


  1. Smishing

A spin-off of phishing, ‘smishing’ involves deceptive text messages instead of emails. In 2021, a common smishing attack involved messages claiming to be from financial institutions.  

 These messages warned recipients about interruptions in their funds or unpaid bills, creating a sense of urgency. Fraudulent links were included, urging users to click and resolve the issue immediately.  

 Unfortunately, these links were traps, leading to either the theft of personal information or the installation of malware on the user’s device. 

 To see more smishing examples and understand how they operate, refer to this page from Terranova Security. 


How and Where to Report Phishing Scams 


Given the seriousness of phishing scams and their potential to cause significant harm, it’s good practice to report any suspected phishing attempts.  

 Here are some sites where you can report phishing and vishing scams in different regions: 

Description Where to Report
Global: These platforms provide resources and channels to report phishing attempts and ensure they are examined by experts. U.S. Government-Operated Website, Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), Google
Europe: In addition to global platforms, these European-specific sites provide further channels to report scams. Action Fraud (UK), Police Scotland, European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), Europol
Australia: These Australian-focused sites help you report scams and seek assistance if your identity has been compromised. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), IDCARE
India: These government-operated portals help victims report cybercrime complaints online. National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal, National Helpline
Asia: This Hong Kong-based centre provides a platform for reporting scams. Anti-Deception Coordination Centre (ADCC)
Latin America: FTC encourages reporting of fraud within Latino communities. Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Africa: These agencies are available for fraud reporting in Africa. South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)
Middle East: These resources help you report scams and fraudulent activities. Abu Dhabi Police



In the vast ocean of the internet, phishing attacks are an ever-present danger. But, just as sailors learn to navigate rough seas, we too can equip ourselves with the knowledge and skills necessary to identify and avoid these threats.  

 To further hone your cyber safety skills, consider enrolling in my Information Security Awareness for UK SMEs, course designed to provide a deeper understanding of online safety practices and precautions.  

 Let’s sail towards safer digital shores together!