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With remote work in high gear, cybersecurity risks have changed as employees have moved from the office into various homes and remote locations. Most corporate environments have security measures in place and it’s easier to encourage cyber-awareness when your team’s in the same place. Remote sites, however, may not be quite so secure. It’s more important than ever to educate your remote workforce about cybersecurity in today’s environment.

One of the most common ways cybercriminals target victims is through phishing. Pharming isn’t far behind.

Man has relied on fishing and farming as a means of survival for thousands of years. Fishing involves dropping a hook in the water and waiting for the right finned creature to take the bait. Farming requires a bit more effort and time. A farmer must plant the seed, nurture the seed, and wait for the harvest.

The same concepts apply to these terms’ cyber counterparts. While different in approach, phishing and pharming have the same end goal: to trick unsuspecting people into revealing sensitive personal information, which hackers can use to fatten their bellies (or wallets). The worst-case scenario is identity theft.


Phishing involves a hacker dropping a line and hook in the form of an email that appears to be from a popular website or subscription service. The email will tell the recipient, “Our system has experienced an update/change. Please log in using the link below to verify your account information.” The phisherman will bait this email with official-sounding language and logos to get the phish to bite. These emails vary in levels of sophistication, but at first glance, many phishing email appear to be authentic. The email link routes phish to a replica site where they are prompted to enter sensitive information (usernames, passwords, bank account info, social security numbers, etc.). Then the phish is caught.


Pharming was originally named as such because it allows hackers to herd large populations of people to fake websites in one fell swoop. In pharming, a hacker redirects users from the authentic website they are trying to reach to a fake site created by the pharmer. Pharmers poison the DNS cache (stored list of previously visited websites) of a computer, network, or server, then manipulate the settings to ensure that when a user starts typing a web address into the address bar, it autofills with a fake website address. The hacker is plants the seeds for his corrupt websites in the DNS cache, fertilizes these seeds by replicating the login page of the authentic site, and waits to harvest.

How to Avoid the Hook and the Harvest

  1. Educate your team. The easiest way to decrease the likelihood of being phished and pharmed is to simply be aware that these types of attacks are a possibility. Read a few articles on basic cybersecurity. If you are reading this, you’re already ahead of the game.
  2. Embrace cyber-skepticism. The more people learn about potential hacking threats, the more cyber-skeptical they will become. This is always a safe bet. If it sounds phishy (see what I did there?), err on the side of caution. You may miss out on a free cruise to the Bahamas or $5 million from a Nigerian prince, but delete that email. Trust us, no one has ever won on that deal.
  3. Train EmployeesCompanies should mandate cybersecurity training for all employees in which they discuss the types of cyberattacks and explain how to identify them before they happen.
  4. Do not trust email linksNever provide information for a personal account by following a link in an email. If you receive an unsolicited email from a personal account asking for account verification and you don’t know if it’s authentic, call the company’s official customer service phone number—not the one from the questionable email—and speak to a human being to confirm the legitimacy. Or navigate directly to the website via a separate internet browser, not by clicking the link in the email. If it’s a legitimate request, you should receive a similar message once you log in to your account.
  5. Take note of your URL when browsingWhen browsing, always pay attention to the URL of the website you are visiting. Legitimate sites will always have the name of the site, immediately followed by .com, .edu, .net, etc. For example, If you tried to log in to Netflix but saw something like, or even a minor misspelling like, you can bet your DNS cache has been compromised.

The good news is about phishing and pharming is that both can be easily prevented. Taking the basic precautions listed above can stop hackers in their tracks so we can just keep swimming in secure waters.

We’ll leave you with this: “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to phish, and he’ll steal your identity and eat on your credit forever.” – A Proverb (probably)

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