With our inboxes bombarded daily by a myriad of messages, identifying the genuine from the suspicious can often feel like a modern digital detective game. Especially when you consider the ever-present threat of phishing, a malicious sleight of emails designed to steal your sensitive data. But don’t fret, understanding email security is a skill that can be learned. So, are you ready to unravel the mystery of phishing emails?
What Is Phishing?
Some people understand phishing to be the practice of sending fake emails to trick individuals into revealing personal information, like login credentials or credit card details. But did you know that phishing can take many forms?
Apart from email, malicious actors may use social media, phone calls, text messages, and even physical mail to deceive their targets. Let’s delve into the thick of phishing and get some ideas on how to protect against it.
A Real-life Example
In February 2021, a phishing scam targeting people receiving COVID-19 vaccines in the UK was discovered. The fake email, posing as the National Health Service (NHS), asked individuals to provide their financial information to receive a vaccine. It all seemed legitimate, except for the fact that the NHS does not require payment for vaccines. Luckily, the scam was quickly identified and shut down.
Characteristics of Phishing Emails
So how can you spot a phishing email? Here are some telltale signs to look for to maintain your email security:
- Identifying suspicious sender addresses: Check the sender’s email address carefully. Is it a legitimate address or a copycat? Scammers often use email addresses similar to reputable ones but with subtle misspellings or additions.
- Recognizing generic greetings and impersonal messages: Phishing emails tend to address recipients in generic terms like “Dear Customer” or “Valued Member.” Legitimate organizations typically personalize their communications with your name.
- Unusual or incorrect grammar and spelling: Most legitimate organizations take great care to ensure their emails are error-free. If an email contains multiple spelling or grammatical errors, it’s likely a phishing attempt meant to compromise your email security.
- Urgent or threatening language: Phishing emails often try to evoke an emotional response by using alarming statements like “your account will be suspended” or “you could face legal action.” These tactics are meant to pressure you into acting without thinking.
- Deceptive links and URLs: Hover your mouse over any links in the email to see the full URL. If it looks suspicious, don’t click on it. Phishing emails often use deceptive links that lead to fake websites designed to capture your personal information.
- Malicious attachments: Never open attachments from unknown senders, especially if they are .exe, .vbs, or .zip files. These can contain malware that can harm your computer and steal your data.
Different Types of Phishing
While the most common type of phishing comes in the form of emails, there is more than one way to reel in unsuspecting victims.
Smishing is phishing through text messages.
This type of phishing is done over the phone.
If someone is asking for personal information from you and you aren’t entirely sure if you can trust them, it could be phishing. Do anything and everything you can to stay vigilant in all forms of communication to maintain your cybersecurity.
This message usually looks like a Microsoft Onedrive link. The malicious actor tricks the user into clicking the link, which can automatically log them into a malicious website using the existing session. Sadly, there isn’t a good way to prevent session hijacking. Microsoft 365 MDR monitoring is the best way to prevent data exposure if this occurs.
What to Do If You Open It
If you happen to open a phishing email, all is not lost. Do not reply to it or click on any links or attachments. If you entered credentials, consider changing any passwords that may have been compromised.
As an employee, you’ll need to alert your IT department immediately so they can take the necessary steps to secure your organization’s systems. If you received a phishing email posing as a financial institution, contact the bank or credit card company directly and inform them of the attempted scam.
Alerting as many people as possible can not only deter them from falling into the same trap but can also help IT professionals track down any loose ends on company data.
How Can We Help?
At Run Networks, we understand that email security is crucial for businesses of all sizes. That’s why we offer comprehensive cybersecurity services to keep your organization safe from phishing attacks and other cyber threats. Our team of experts stays up-to-date on the latest techniques used by malicious actors and can provide customized solutions to protect your business.
Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you stay one step ahead of cybercriminals. Let us be on your defense team against email security threats.