What is the Difference Between Phishing and Pharming?

Instructor: Lyna Griffin

Lyna has tutored undergraduate Information Management Systems and Database Development. She has a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering and a Masters degree in Information Technology.

In this lesson we will look at the definitions of Phishing and Pharming. Although similar, there are some definite differences between how these two kinds of cyber attacks are carried out.

Cyber Attacks

Phishing and Pharming are household terms in the world of cyber attacks. Wherever there is a flow of valuable information, fraudsters are prowling. Cyber attacks are carried out by a person or a group against computers, computer networks, or a system of computers, most often to steal data or cause them to break down.

Phishing and Pharming are especially dangerous because they use everyday internet services to get their victims. Some of the strategies are fake emails, deceptive attachments, and free download offers. On an ordinary day would you reveal your bank details to anyone who asked for it? Would you reveal your passwords to your e-mail or a shopping site? Of course not. Well, phishing and pharming scams are tools which make you do just that! Both terms apply to hackers on the internet committing theft and stealing important information from you.

What is Phishing?

To understand phishing, let's look at some information about John. His email address is jthomas@penflow.com and he banks with GrapeApple Bank Inc. To log on to online banking at GrapeApple, he usually goes to www.grapeapplebank.com. Once a month he gets account statements from the email address something@grapeapplebank.com

On Monday morning John receives the following e-mail:


He opens the email to reveal this message:


This e-mail is part of a phishing scam. Phishing is a form of cyber attack where internet users are targeted and deceived into revealing their personal information. A phishing attack is launched by the transmission of deceptive emails to targeted individuals or groups of internet users. These emails sound and look legitimate. They usually contain a URL or link that re-directs the victim to a cloned website. Clone websites are designed to look similar to the real thing, fake copies designed to trick people into logging on or typing in payment information. When the unsuspecting victim enters sensitive information it is captured by the scammer and used for his malicious intent.

Let's take a look at that e-mail one more time and highlight the red flags.


If you look at the email address in this section, you'll see that instead of saying ''someone@grapeapplebank.com' the email address has a whole string of nonsense letters. Scam emails often have strange e-mail addresses like this. Another clue is the link included in the body of the e-mail. Banks and other online institutions almost never send their customers emails with links to reset their passwords or login without the customer specifically requesting it. If you see a link like this in your email, especially one with a strange website address, steer clear!

What is Pharming?

Pharming is another way hackers steal information. It involves the installation of malicious code on a computer system without the user's knowledge, causing the user's web traffic to be redirected to cloned web pages or hoax sites created by the scammer.

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