For cybercriminals, phishing is an easy first step in identifying their most vulnerable victims. In most cases, it is their only chance at sabotaging secure servers and computer systems. At their core, phishing attacks are less about technical wizardry and more about psychological subversion to target the weakest link in security technology – he end-user.
Your employees, family members, and even you are susceptible to clicking and downloading an odd email attachment or two. Just one of these attachments could provide scammers convenient access into your servers – and you’ll probably be none the wiser. That’s how most data breach incidents occur.
The number of phishing attacks doubled in frequency last year, mostly because scammers knew that more executive employees would be working from home. According to a survey by IBM, scammers rake in millions due to phishing attacks; $4.65 million to be more precise.
Study the Anatomy of Phishing Emails
Your best defense is to study the tell-tale signs of a fraudulent email and delete it. For the most part, phishing emails are easy to spot because they are obviously fake (thanks to a plethora of grammatical errors, false promises, and tacky aesthetics). However, now and then, you will come across phishing emails that are almost perfectly executed in terms of wordplay and origins.
Email addresses and domains can be spoofed, making it is easy for cyber criminals to masquerade as a brand that you trust. This is why you should always double-check the source of the email. Pay attention to any spelling alternations on suspicious emails.
And, as a rule of thumb, don’t ever download attachments from suspicious emails you don’t trust. If the email redirects you to a dodgy website, do not enter your credentials. Do not write anything on the webpage because it is collecting your data.
Why You Shouldn’t Even Open Phishy Emails
Most hackers use analytical tools to learn various benchmarks, such as email open rates. This is done by placing a small code in the body of the email to determine various stats, such as when you opened an email, how many times you opened it, what device it was opened on, and where you were when you opened it.
This means that a single email could give away too much information to a malicious party.
Look for Those Typos
Typos are bad for business – this is why most legitimate companies will take their time to proofread at least twice before sending them out. However, scammers are in the business of identifying their most gullible victims and often deliberately place typos to lure them in.
Such errors are a very good sign that the email is not authentic and could be a trap. However, the occasional spelling error isn’t always an indication of a scam, especially if you’re having a conversation with someone over emails.
But formal emails, especially those generated by email automation tools, are often always immaculate in terms of their grammar and linguistic flow. If these emails contain grammar errors, then you’re probably looking at fraud.
Do not download anything that comes from such a source.
Time Urgency is a Trap
Phishing emails often ask their victim for information – right away. The emails often threaten the victim with jail time and scare them by alleging unexpected activity on their account.
Some emails can claim that a large discount is only available for a limited time. Both of these strategies are effective because they encourage end-users to drop their guard and think irrationally.
However, no matter how urgent an email appears to be, you always have enough time to dig deep and learn if it’s a scam.
Origins Can be Spoofed
Scammers often spoof the email addresses of tech giants like PayPal, Apple, and Microsoft to send thousands of emails to victims.
The trick lies in targeting a large number of recipients. All it takes is just a few dozen unsuspecting users to click on a link and submit their information. This data is then used for malicious purposes. In the case of PayPal, the data can be used to steal money directly from the user’s account.
Emails with spoofed addresses often never mention the recipient by name. This is because the scammers are writing a generic email that will be sent to random victims. If the email were authentic, it would most likely refer the customer by their name.
So if an email from, let’s say PayPal, were to refer to the user as “Dear customer,” then it’s a fake.
Do You Have Firewall and Anti-Spam Software?
Firewalls are very effective at preventing external threats. These tools act as shields between your server and the attacker. They work by preventing access to malicious attachments and blocking their attempts at breaking in.
Anti-spam software work by keeping your emails safe from junk and phishing emails. They use the latest anti-phishing software to make filter malicious emails. This isn’t to say that anti-spam software is perfect. It is common for the odd phishing email to slip in through the guard and land in your inbox. This does not mean it is safe enough to click. You should still keep your guard up at all times.
When Was the Last Time You Changed Your Password?
At this rate, most of us may have already given too much information to malicious emails. If this is true, you should change your password right now – especially if you’ve used it elsewhere. Contact any users and institutions using the old password and issue a new access code to them.
It is good practice to regularly change your passwords to accounts that you frequently use, especially if you have financial information on them.
Is Your Business Ready for Phishing Attacks?
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