See all Security articles
See all Privacy articles
See all Performance articles
Select language
Select language
Avast Academy Security Other Threats The Essential Guide to Pharming: What it is and How to Spot it


If you’ve ever logged into your bank only to find your login info compromised and your money stolen, then you’ve been a victim of pharming. Pharming disguises fake, data-grabbing websites as legitimate, trusted ones.


What is pharming?

Pharming is a fraudulent practice similar to phishing, except with pharming, a legitimate website’s traffic is manipulated to direct users to fake lookalikes that will either install malicious software on visitors’ computers, or harvest (pharm) users’ personal data, such as passwords or financial details. Pharming is particularly insidious because if a DNS server is compromised, even users with fully protected, malware-free devices can become victims.

Hamburguer menu icon

This article contains:

    What kinds of pharming are there?

    Pharming takes two forms. In the first form, hackers use any number of different methods to install viruses or other malware onto your computer. This virus then makes your computer direct you away from the site you want to visit, such as a banking or e-commerce site, and instead takes you to a fake website that’s been designed to look exactly like the site you thought you were going to. The second form of pharming, though, is what makes this type of cybercrime particularly dangerous. In this form, a cybercriminal poisons an entire DNS server, redirecting every user who tries to visit a legitimate site to the fake one.

    How do you recognize pharming?

    If hackers do their job well, it‘s nearly impossible to recognize a fake, data-stealing site — but there are still a few things you can be on the lookout for. For example, always check the URL of the site to make sure it’s spelled correctly. Second, make sure that the URL has been changed to “https”. The “s” stands for “secure” meaning the website is safe.

    How do you stop a pharming site?

    For the most part, it’s your ISP (internet service provider) who fights against pharming sites, by filtering out fake redirects and closing down fraudulent sites. But there are still measures you can take to stop pharming — the most important one is to install a powerful virus scanner and cleaner that can find and remove any malware on your computer that will direct you to malicious sites.

    Other ways to prevent pharming

    • Check the URL on sites you visit to make sure they’re correct

    • Use a trustworthy ISP and be smart about the websites you visit

    • Use security software to ensure the sites you visit are trustworthy

    Protect yourself against pharming

    Prevention is far better at keeping you safe than treatment, so the first line of defense is doing your best to not get infected. Avoid suspicious websites and never click on links in emails from people you don’t know. But the only way you can be sure you’re protected from this type of pharming is to use a robust internet security solution that will secure your DNS settings, and to use a browser that will automatically ensure you go to the sites that are safe and trustworthy.