It really isn’t that difficult for a cyber-criminal to infiltrate your network. All he or she needs to do is write an email. It doesn’t have to be very long or even that professional-looking. At this point, almost anything works… or, at least, that’s what it seems like, since the total number and overall success rate of phishing attacks have both grown significantly over the last few years.
This fact is disappointing and borderline frustrating because phishing emails should be easy to detect and even easier to avoid. All it takes is a little suspicion and a few seconds of work to effectively sidestep a phishing attack. So, just to make sure you have absolutely no excuse to fall victim to a malicious email, here’s a 5-part strategy to help you maneuver through your inbox.
- Review the sender
Before you open the email, take a look at who sent the email. Sometimes a malicious email can be stopped right here, before you ever have to debate a call to action. Do you know who this person is and does it appear to be from a credible source? Oftentimes, a phishing email will come from an address that is clearly malicious in nature.
- Review the subject
If the sender doesn’t catch you off the guard, then the subject line probably will. Malicious emails usually have extremely ridiculous subject lines that appear to be urgent and time sensitive. If something like this comes from an unknown source, it’s probably a bad email. Think about it: Why would someone you don’t know send you an urgent request? Especially through email.
- Inspect the grammar
If you make it to the actual email itself—the sender and subject appear to be legitimate—it’s time to review the content itself. When an email comes from a reputable company—like your bank or insurance company—they should be grammatically perfect. These emails should have periods, commas, and apostrophes in all the appropriate places, and every word that should be capitalized, better be capitalized. If something is grammatically off, delete the email. However, if it’s coming from an individual person, you may need to be a little less skeptical here.
- Take a look at the images, content, and contact information
Once again, if the email comes from an actual company, make sure everything matches. Does the logo, header, and contact information match the company’s actual getup or is something slightly off? If anything is off, that’s a surefire sign something is up. And this goes for an individual person, as well. If it comes from a person claiming to be with a company, they should have a signature with the proper logo and contact information to match the company.
- Approach attachments, call to actions, and links with caution.
This is where things can get sketchy, scary, and network-altering. It’s just a good rule of thumb not to open anything or click on anything from an unknown sender. If it comes from your phone company or your banking institution and you aren’t completely sold on the legitimacy of the email, then find a roundabout way of accessing the same information. If it’s a call to action that asks you to update your login information by clicking on a link, then delete the email. Instead, type the normal website into the address bar, login to your account from the website, and update your account at this point. If it’s an attachment, then call the company and verify the attachment prior to the download. However, remember never to use the contact information presented in the email. Find it on the company’s website or on any paperwork you have from the contact.
If you’re ready to give phishing emails a run for their money, then follow this 5-part strategy. You’ll have a significantly better opportunity at not becoming the victim of an email from a person claiming to be from Best Bye, Wels Fargo, or Targit.
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