Pharming is a type of cyber attack in which the cybercriminals intentionally redirect you to a fake version of the website you hoped to access to steal your username and password. “Pharming” combines the terms “phishing,” a similar type of cyber attack, and “farming.”
Phishing uses deceptive email, social media, or text messages asking you for your financial information, while pharming requires no lure.
Pharming, the digital equivalent of spotting a detour sign while driving, pushes a driver to take a detour toward a waiting group of robbers.
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Pharming is more dangerous than phishing since it can affect a more significant number of computers without any conscious action from the victims. Pharmers, the perpetrators of pharming attacks, often victimize financial institutions like banks, online payment service providers, and e-commerce site owners.
Pharming attacks can be classified into several categories:
- Pharming a single computer: In this scam, a victim receives an email laced with a malicious code that changes his computer’s settings making it open to sending and receiving communications from a malicious site or individual. In most cases, pharmers point infected computers to fake websites. These sites often look so much like the real ones that the victim ends up entering his/her credentials into forms.
- Pharming via Domain Name System (DNS) poisoning: This is a more dangerous form of pharming. Instead of individually compromising computers, hackers target an organization’s DNS server. A DNS server converts IP addresses into domain names and vice versa. It can be likened to a phonebook where the IP address acts as the site owner’s phone number and the domain name is his/her office. Pharmers can change the contents of an entire phonebook to point all users connected to the affected network to malicious sites. This type of attack is also harder to spot because the individual computers won’t show anomalous settings.