17 September 2014

A recent report has found that phishing attacks are increasingly using personalisation in an attempt to look more legitimate.

Failing to address you by your name is a clue that a message might be a fake. If an attacker can add your name or other personal information to a message, it improves its chances of success.

If you receive an email addressing you by name and requesting information, be cautious and verify the request before proceeding. Stay Smart Online has information about how to detect and avoid phishing.

To personalise the phishing email, attackers first find some identity information about you, such as your name. This information could be found from data leaks, internet searches for your email address or many other possible sources. It can even be simply guessed if, for example, your email address is firstname.lastname [at] email.com.

The attacks are also reported to be sending a slightly different link to each victim. The link updates an associated scam website with your identity information to display a personalised message as you click through. It is intended to make the site look more convincing, leading to you disclosing information such as your online banking password.

The report also notes that phishing emails have increased by 10% in the last year.

Staying safe

Be suspicious of any messages you receive from unknown or untrusted sources.

Do not click on links or attachments in a message unless you are completely confident about its content or the sender.

You can always navigate to the original website or source yourself—independently of links in the message—to cross check its information.

Any legitimate request should have another avenue to verify the request, such as a phone number or official customer service email address.

If you are suspicious, simply delete the message.

More information

The information in this guide originated at PhishLabs’ blog and this report (PDF) from the Anti-Phishing Working Group.

Stay Smart Online has more information on avoiding online scams and managing spam.

You can report spam to ACMA.

The information provided here is of a general nature. Everyone's circumstances are different. If you require specific advice you should contact your local technical support provider.


Thank you to those subscribers who have provided feedback to our Alerts and Newsletters. We are very interested in your feedback and where possible take on board your suggestions or requests.


This information has been prepared by Enex TestLab for the Department of Communications ('the Department'). It was accurate and up to date at the time of publishing.

This information is general information only and is intended for use by private individuals and small to medium sized businesses. If you are concerned about a specific cyber security issue you should seek professional advice.

The Commonwealth, Enex TestLab, and all other persons associated with this advisory accept no liability for any damage, loss or expense incurred as a result of the provision of this information, whether by way of negligence or otherwise.

Nothing in this information (including the listing of a person or organisation or links to other web sites) should be taken as an endorsement of a particular product or service.

Please note that third party views or recommendations included in this information do not reflect the views of the Commonwealth, or indicate its commitment to a particular course of action. The Commonwealth also cannot verify the accuracy of any third party material included in this information.


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