We’ve all caught the obvious spam email, like the message that is clearly bogus, or the offer that is definitely too good to be true.
We’re going to confidently assume none of our readers are getting tricked by Nigerian Princes or getting roped into order virility drugs from an unsolicited email. The real threat comes from the more clever phishing attacks. Let’s take a look.
Phishing is where you get an email that looks like an actual legit email. The goal that a cybercriminal has is to trick you into giving them a password or access to an account (like to PayPal, Facebook, or your bank) or to get you to download malware.
The problem with phishing emails is how real they can seem. A phishing attempt for your PayPal information can look just like an everyday email from PayPal.
Even worse, often phishing emails try to sound urgent. They make you feel like you have to take action quickly, or that a bill is overdue, or that your password has been stolen. This can lower the user’s guard, and force them into a sticky situation.
Like I said, it’s not always going to be obvious when you get phished. Even careful, security-minded, technical people can fall victim because phishing is just as much of a psychological attack as it is a technical one.
Still, there are some practices you and your staff should use:
This can solve a lot of problems from the get-go. If your PayPal account gets hacked, and it uses the same password as your email or your bank account, then you may as well assume that your email and bank account are infiltrated too. Never use the same password across multiple sites.
You’d expect emails from Facebook to come from , right? Well, if you get an email about your password or telling you to log into your account and it’s from , you’ll know something is up.
Cybercriminals will try to make it subtle. Amazon emails might come from or emails from PayPal might come from . It’s going to pay off to be skeptical, especially if the email is trying to get you to go somewhere to sign in or to submit sensitive information.
This is nothing new, but most malware found on business networks still comes from email attachments, so it’s still a huge problem. If you didn’t request or expect an email attachment, don’t click on it. Scrutinize the email, or even reach out to the recipient to confirm that it is safe. I know it sounds silly, but being security-minded might build security-mindfulness habits in others too, so you could inadvertently save them from an issue if they follow your lead!
If the email has a link in it, hover your mouse over it to see where it is leading. Don’t click on it right away.
For example, if the email is about your PayPal account, check the domain for any obvious signs of danger. Here are some examples:
Keep in mind, everyone handles their domains a little differently, but you can use this as a general rule of thumb. Don’t trust dots after the domain that you expect the link to be. If in any doubt, just don't click at all.
Want help teaching your staff how to spot phishing emails? Be sure to reach out to the IT security experts at PCS. We can help equip your company with solutions to mitigate and decrease phishing attempts, and help educate and test your employees to prepare them for when they are threatened by cybercriminals.