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another reason to think before you click

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Cybercriminals take advantage of people’s negligence to obtain passwords, ID numbers, home addresses, bank accounts, and other personal information. Getting lost on a fake website is one way they do it. This article explains what pharming is and how to detect and prevent it.

Imagine that you are in your car on the way to a country house to spend a few days on vacation. You follow all the signs to get there, including a right turn that, without realizing it, leads you away from your destination. You end up somewhere and don’t know why or how you did it. This is how pharming works online. It is a trick in which legitimate websites or servers are tampered with to redirect users to fake websites that capture their personal information or even money.

“Pharming” is the portmanteau of “Phishing(i.e. spoofing over emails or text messages) and server “farms” that redirect users to fraudulent websites.

Whether you’re a hobbyist or an Internet expert, the key to understanding this scam lies in how you navigate online. To visit a website, you normally write its address in the browser or click on a direct link. The browser translates the information into a numeric Internet Protocol (or “IP”) address for a specific server in order to display website content. Internet browsing works this way because a name is much easier to remember than a set of numbers.

Cybercriminals are on the prowl to make sure you don’t open the website you want and head to another they’ve created to scam you. Knowing how they do it is the first step to avoiding their scheme. So let’s look at two ways they engage in pharming.