phish·​ing | \ ˈfi-shiŋ How to pronounce phishing (audio) \

Definition of phishing

: a scam by which an Internet user is duped (as by a deceptive e-mail message) into revealing personal or confidential information which the scammer can use illicitly

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Other Words from phishing

phisher \ ˈfi-​shər How to pronounce phisher (audio) \ noun

Did You Know?

Phishing is one of the many new computer-related terms that have found their way into the general lexicon over the past decade or so. Its "ph" spelling is influenced by an earlier word for an illicit act: "phreaking." Phreaking involves fraudulently using an electronic device to avoid paying for telephone calls, and its name is suspected of being a shortening of "phone freak." A common phishing scam involves sending e-mails that appear to come from banks requesting recipients to verify their accounts by typing personal details, such as credit card information, into a Web site that has been disguised to look like the real thing. Such scams can be thought of as "fishing" for naive recipients.

Examples of phishing in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Google blocks more than 100 million phishing emails every day as criminals try to steal money and personal information. Kim Komando, USA TODAY, "10 COVID-19 scams spreading right now that people are falling for," 30 Apr. 2020 Overall, Gmail blocks more than 100 million phishing emails daily. Lily Hay Newman, Wired, "Google Sees State-Sponsored Hackers Ramping Up Coronavirus Attacks," 22 Apr. 2020 Look out for potential phishing emails from attackers asking you to update your password or any other login credentials. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "Why Firefox Is Moving to DNS Over HTTPS—and What That Means for You," 25 Feb. 2020 Another recent, high-profile attack began in Baltimore in May, which shut down essential city systems via a phishing email. Dani Deahl, The Verge, "Mayors around the country join forces to fight hacker ransoms," 12 July 2019 With precise movements, the hackers breached telecom companies’ networks through traditional spear phishing emails and other tactics, Cybreason says. Eva Dou, WSJ, "Global Telecom Carriers Attacked by Suspected Chinese Hackers," 24 June 2019 Those techniques can force TVs to show whatever video a hacker chooses, display phishing messages that ask for the viewer's passwords, inject keyloggers that capture the user's remote button presses, and run cryptomining software. Andy Greenberg, WIRED, "Watch a Drone Take Over a Nearby Smart TV," 11 Aug. 2019 Another phishing campaign, which first emerged in late January, targeted people in Japan with fake health alerts that in fact planted malware on users’ machines to steal their personal information. Justin Rohrlich, Quartz, "Concern for coronavirus victims evident even among cybercriminals in dark web forums," 21 Mar. 2020 The Shark Tank star lost nearly $400,000 as the result of a phishing scheme, People confirmed. Megan Stein, Country Living, "'Shark Tank' Star Barbara Corcoran Was Scammed Out of Nearly $400K," 1 Mar. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'phishing.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of phishing

1996, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for phishing

alteration (influenced by phreaking) of fishing

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Time Traveler for phishing

Time Traveler

The first known use of phishing was in 1996

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Statistics for phishing

Last Updated

5 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Phishing.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for phishing


phish·​ing | \ ˈfi-shiŋ How to pronounce phishing (audio) \

Legal Definition of phishing

: a fraudulent operation by which an e-mail user is duped into revealing personal or confidential information which can be used for illicit purposes (as identity theft)

History and Etymology for phishing

alteration of fishing (probably influenced by phreaking illegal access to a phone system)

More from Merriam-Webster on phishing

Nglish: Translation of phishing for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about phishing

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