Phishing for Profit: How hackers hook our personal information

phishing for profit

New year, new hopes, dreams… and phishing scams? Here we are in 2019. Energized at the thought of new beginnings. I wonder if the hackers get as excited as everyone else? Do they think “I can’t wait to roll out the new phishing scam – it’s gonna make last year’s look like a dud. Say sayonara to data privacy, sucker!” It’s absolutely frightening how slick malware creators are when it comes to phishing for profit.

Data privacy and phishing scams may seem like odd topics for a content creator’s blog until you know that I spent most of 2018 writing about information security, data privacy and compliance. So much time, in fact, that I found myself spouting off about it in everyday conversation. I made friends’ eyes glaze over. Yea, me!

Phishing is some evil stuff (here are the top seven of 2018). It’s so rampant because it is so profitable. Healthcare data is a favorite, because it’s so handy when stealing an identity and creating a new one. Just think of all the incredibly intimate minutiae in your healthcare record. So be on guard.

Five simple anti-phishing steps to help avoid being hooked.

  1. Beware of weirdly worded emails that are supposedly from a friend or trusted vendor. Always read, pause, then re-read before doing anything (phishing is one reason I take no action on chain emails or online games).
  2. Pay attention to unsolicited texts – don’t tap, swipe or otherwise act. If it looks like it’s from your bank or credit card company, but you haven’t set up text alerts, then it’s probably not legit!
  3. If you open an email and the logo looks a little fuzzy or the sender address is misspelled, don’t click on a link or download the file.
  4. If Microsoft misspells something in the subject line or email body, it’s not from Microsoft (or whoever the company purports to be).
  5. NEVER click through or tap on a link that takes you somewhere to enter personal information or reset a password unless you specifically asked for a reset from that vendor. Instead, take the time to go to a browser and manually enter the URL.

Personal data privacy is something we all need to guard.

We can be better at protecting it despite how entrenched we are in online transactions. Sometimes the best thing to do is simply pay attention. Start with these 4 basic activities:

  1. Use strong passwords, not convenient ones, when your sensitive data is at stake. Stumped? You can try one of the password generators listed here.
  2. Check your credit card activity regularly. Set up automatic notifications for charges over a particular dollar amount (this is a favorite for me on credit cards and checking accounts). And please, change your account log-in password if you haven’t lately!
  3. Pause before tapping unsolicited text links or clicking email links or attachments. Closely examine email sender addresses.
  4. Keep your health information to yourself. Personal health information (or protected health information, PHI) is valuable to hackers for identity theft. You can read more about it here. Healthcare providers and their vendors were hit hard last year, which means your PHI was, too.

It comes down to this: You can’t un-ring the bell. Being a phishing target is the price we pay for living in the super-connected cyber-verse, clicking, tapping, swiping, liking, following and buying. All you can do is be more aware of what you share, how and where.

I write for businesses, creating on-message, search-friendly content. To see some of my work, visit this privacy, information security and certification readiness firm, or this technology company offering a cloud-based platform for cybersecurity and information management.




Are your website analytics telling the whole story?

website analytics tell whole story

If you’ve ever discussed Search results with a web developer or content creator, Google Analytics comes up. For years, their website analytics tool has been the standard to track data on website engagement. As a content writer, I’m usually on the fringe of a website’s “back end,” using SEO tools like Yoast combined with a client’s marketing research to develop search-friendly content.

Reading this article by Search Engine Land was an eye opener. Say you have Google Analytics installed on your website. Well, get this. Someone clicks on a link to a particular page or post for your site. They hang out on that page, read the article. You know, they’re interested in what you have to say. But if they go on about their business without going to another page on your website, it’s still a bounce per Google Analytics! Yep. A zero-seconds bounce. That one glitch throws a wrench in how many businesses should look at their website analytics.

What’s the big deal about a bounce, you ask?

Google Analytics calculates your site’s bounce rate based on single page visits. That’s when someone visits your website, but only the one page, no browsing around or clicking from page to page. Like they show up at your door, ring the doorbell, and run away.

Here’s the problem. You’ve engaged a person enough that they clicked on your content and read it. Yet it’s still going to show up as a bounce on your website analytics report.  In fact, the article shares that any of these actions can show as a “bounced visit” in your Google Analytics:

  • Using the back button.
  • Closing the tab or browser window.
  • Typing a site’s URL or search request in the browser.
  • Clicking on an external link within the page.
  • 30-minute session time-outs.

Now, I don’t know about you, but it makes me happy when someone clicks through to read any content I’ve created. So I’d consider the one-page visit a good-to-know statistic. Good thing someone’s come up with a workaround to the Google Analytics standard. If you’re a developer, or have a good one you can grab, perhaps you can try the workaround provided (see the article). I’m not tech-savvy enough to code it myself and I haven’t asked my web designer if she’s tested it yet. If you give it a shot, please let me know how it worked for your site!

For nhaile’s clients, I rely on multiple sources to help optimize content and refine focus. Not only Google Analytics results, but also input from the client, their customers and my own research. I use your website’s SEO plug-ins to refine copy optimization. Discovering potential speed bumps – like quirks in website analytics – is just part of the process! Call me at nhaile communications for your content creation needs.

What’s the catch with free blog content?

new post free blog content

What's the catch with free blog content?

I’m all about free. BOGO. Free app with entrée. But when someone offers to write free blog content, my spidey sense tingles. Not that writers don’t love to write, but I immediately ask, “What’s the catch?” Because there’s no fairy godmother of creative content. There is a catch.

I write for a living. So I’m a little biased against the loosely associated paragraphs of rehashed content from an online search. I field free writing offers from “fellow” writers regularly. “I’ll write free content for your blog. You’ll get a photo, links and amp your search results.” Really. Hmmm.

You may have seen a pitch for free blog content in your Inbox. If you’re determined to check it out, then make no commitments, do this instead: Get them to send you a sample post.

Once you read the sample post, go back and follow the outbound links. Notice how the linked-to article has weirdly similar content to the article you were given? Often, freebie content writers paraphrase pieces from other articles, then include an outbound link to the original article. It appears appropriate, but in actuality, they’re lifting phrases and rehashing original content.

What’s wrong with that, you ask? It undermines the voice of your brand.

Say you’re a personal trainer and a freebie blogger sends you an article on nutrition. How does its content relate to your services? Does the blog article tie together nutritional tips from you with the benefits of motivational, supervised training? Or is it about how we look at nutrition has changed, that eggs are good protein and leafy greens are essential? One has the potential to be relevant. To promote your expertise and your differentiators. The other is flat, irrelevant content. Space-filler.

Any article published on your website or social media should be related to you and your business: What you sell, Who you are, or Why it’s beneficial (the “what’s in it for me” message).

Organic, search-friendly, written content is original. It gives you a voice for your brand. A voice that points out how your products and services are better than the competition’s. What you know that others may not. What being you is all about and why that’s a good thing for your customers. That’s good blog content.

As you can imagine, small- to mid-sized business owners are a favorite target of freebie content offers. Many don’t have the marketing budget to hire an agency with a cadre of writers producing relevant, on-message content. Nor do they have the time or desire to write their own search-friendly, relevant (to their business) content. Enter nhaile.

So definitely go for the buy-one-get-one appetizer offer at happy hour – I’ll join you! But take a pass on the too-good-to-be-true dangling carrot. Call me instead.