Anyone with a website or an online identity has good reason to be concerned about pharming. And yet, many people don’t even know what this nefarious practice is. If you’re looking for a pharming definition, as well as advice on how to stop it, we’re here to help.
What Is Pharming?
Pharming is a process whereby hackers take traffic from one website and shift it over to a different, fake website. This is accomplished by seeking out and exploiting vulnerabilities in DNS (domain name system) server software.
Once a visitor has been moved from a real website to a malicious, fake website, the hacker can then gather personal information that the user inputs on the site or use their access to install viruses on their computer.
Why Is It Called Pharming?
This silly-sounding term actually has a lot of history. It comes from the term “phishing,” which is a method whereby people attempt to get access to people’s personal information by creating a fake website or manipulative email that looks real.
For example, someone who is phishing could create a page that looks like your bank’s website, and then, when you input your login name and password, use that to access your real bank account.
The difference between pharming and phishing is that the former literally moves visitors from a legitimate website onto a fake site. In this sense, pharming is arguably more malicious, as people browsing the web may not even realize they’ve moved from the site they wanted to be on to a dangerous, hacked clone of the site.
How Can You Avoid Pharming?
One of the scariest aspects of pharming is that it’s extremely difficult to avoid. Because of the way it goes through a website’s DNS, your own computer can be completely clean of any malware or viruses and still fall prey to pharming when you’re online. However, there are a few steps you can take to ensure your safety.
Watch Your Web Address Bar
Even in the midst of browsing on trusted websites, pay attention to the web address bar at the top of your browser. This is especially important if a site seems to be unexpectedly asking you for personal information or login details that you’ve already inputted.
Safe sites will be using HTTPS, a more secure form of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that goes at the front of most website names. Most browsers will also have a little lock icon near the address bar. If the lock icon is open, you’re on an unsecured site and should not enter any personal information. If it’s locked, that means the site has up-to-date security credentials, and you should be safe.
Install Strong Antivirus Software
Although antivirus software will not prevent pharming from taking place, it will help you avoid any potential viruses or malware that are placed onto your computer by the malicious sites in question. Robust, frequently updated anti-virus programs are a must for all web browsing, and they’re particularly important for scenarios like this where a virus could be put onto your computer without any mistakes on your part.
Pharming is a complex process, but the pharming definition is much simpler than it may appear at first. It’s basically just another method for untrustworthy hackers to get access to your information and your computer. Be sure to stay aware and protect yourself.