Email is often touted as a favorite medium for launching cyberattacks against businesses and individuals. This is because it’s easy to hide the true intent behind an email attack within its contents, whether they are embedded images in the message itself, or links to external sources. How can you know for sure whether the links in your email inbox are legitimate?
In short, it amounts to being as vigilant as you can be. You should always be looking for reasons not to click on links in your emails if you can help it, as it’s better to err on the side of caution than risk suffering from a data breach or malware infection. Here are three warning signs to look for in a potentially malicious email attack.
Spelling and Grammar Errors
The first warning sign of a fraudulent email is that it’s filled with all sorts of spelling and grammar errors. Professional messages sent from reputable sources will likely have passable grammar, but if it’s incoherent and difficult to understand, chances are that the message is risky at best--especially if it contains links. There are always exceptions to this rule, however. Phishing emails are often so discreet that it can be difficult to identify them through this method. Therefore, you’ll have to keep other information in mind when clicking on any links.
Links Leading to Obscure Targets
Sometimes you’ll get an email and you won’t be sure if it’s fraudulent or legitimate. In cases like this, it’s always best to approach the link carefully by making sure that the link leads to where it claims to. You can do this easily enough by simply hovering over the link with your mouse without clicking on it. You’ll see the linked URL right in a little bar at the bottom of your browser showcasing the link target. If it’s not something that it should be linking to, stay away from it.
Messages from Unknown Senders
Another major red flag that gives away the nature of a message (and its links) is who is the actual sender. If it’s from someone who you don’t recognize or someone who you don’t think should be reaching out to you, immediately reconsider clicking on any links or messages found in it. Even if the sender is known to you, but the message is suspicious, you can see if the email address matches anything that you have on record for that user. If it doesn’t, you know that you can’t trust whoever sent the message to you. In a worst-case scenario, you could be looking at a phishing or whaling scam, in which case you want to notify your IT department immediately so that proper measures can be taken.
The good news about suspicious or fraudulent emails is that you can keep the majority out of your inbox with an enterprise-level spam filter. The bad news is that even this sometimes isn’t enough for more dangerous threats. As we said before, the best security measure you can implement is good old-fashioned caution. If you teach your employees how to effectively identify threats, they will be more likely to avoid them; or, better yet, they’ll report them to IT for proper analysis. To learn more about security tools and training, reach out to White Mountain IT Services at 603-889-0800.