Phishing emails are a common tactic used by cybercriminals to gain access to sensitive information, such as login credentials, financial data, and personal information. According to recent statistics, 91% of all cyberattacks begin with a phishing email, making it a significant threat to individuals and businesses alike. Detecting a phishing email is crucial to protect yourself and your organization from potential security breaches. In this article, we will discuss 10 things to watch for when identifying a phishing email to help you stay safe online. But, before going deeper, let us explain to you what Phishing Email is.
What is Phishing Email?
Phishing email is a type of cyber attack where an attacker impersonates a legitimate entity, such as a bank, social media platform, or online retailer, in an attempt to trick the recipient into providing sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, or financial information. These emails often appear to be legitimate, using familiar logos, language, and formatting to deceive the recipient. Once the attacker has access to this information, they can use it for a variety of malicious purposes, such as identity theft, financial fraud, or installing malware on the victim’s device. After knowing about the basics of this type of crime, let’s dive into our main course.
#1 Thing: Check the Sender’s Email Address
It is crucial to verify the sender’s email address because scammers frequently use it to pose as reputable companies and trick people into giving out private information. You can help safeguard yourself and your company from possible security breaches by confirming the sender’s identity and email address. As phishing emails pose a serious risk to both individuals and businesses, it is crucial to be cautious when it comes to spotting them. Phishing scams can be avoided by taking precautions to verify the legitimacy of the email sender, such as verifying the email address.
Let’s say you receive an email that appears to be from your bank, but something seems off. Before taking any further action, examine the sender’s email address. If the email claims to be from “yourbank.com,” but the sender’s email address is “[email protected],” it is likely a phishing attempt. Legitimate organizations typically use their own domain in their email addresses, so any discrepancies should be considered a red flag.
It’s also important to be cautious of email addresses that appear to be from a legitimate organization, but with slight variations or spelling errors. For example, “yourbankonline.com” instead of “yourbank.com.” These small differences may be difficult to spot, but they can reveal a fake email and prevent falling victim to a phishing scam.
#2 Thing: Verify the Sender’s Domain
The second thing to watch for when identifyin’ a phishing email be to verify the sender’s domain. Scammers often use a domain that be similar to a legitimate organization to deceive the recipient. For example, an email may seem to be from “amazon.com,” but upon closer inspection, the domain may be “amazoon.com.” It be important to carefully examine the domain of the sender’s email address to make sure that it matches the company or organization they claim to represent. Legitimate organizations typically have a professional domain name and email address, while scammers may use slight variations or completely different domains to impersonate a legitimate organization.
One real-life phishing case where lack of attention to the second thing to watch for resulted in a security breach was the Target data breach in 2013. The cyberattack began with a phishing email sent to an HVAC contractor that had access to Target’s network. The email appeared to be from a legitimate company, but the domain name was slightly altered. The contractor clicked on a link in the email, which installed malware on the network, giving the attackers access to Target’s payment system. This resulted in the theft of over 40 million credit and debit card numbers, as well as the personal information of 70 million customers. In this instance, the contractor’s lack of attention to the sender’s domain allowed the attackers to gain access to Target’s payment system, resulting in a significant data breach.
#3 Thing: Look for Spelling and Grammar Errors
In applying this third filtering method, you need to understand a bit about how this method works. It goes this way:
- Legitimate organizations usually communicate professionally, with correct spelling and grammar
- Phishing emails may contain errors due to the use of automated tools
- Scrutinize the email for any spelling or grammar errors
- If any errors are found, it is likely a phishing attempt and should be reported to the appropriate authorities immediately
If this method does not work in your case, please read our next menu on the list.
#4 Thing: Avoid clicking on links
This effort can be separated into three main methods. Make sure you follow all of them to smallen to possibility of being fooled by a scammer.
Hover over Links
Before clicking on any links, hover your cursor over them to see the actual URL. If the link’s URL doesn’t match the organization they claim to represent, it’s likely a phishing attempt.
Type the URL Directly
If you’re unsure about the legitimacy of a link, it’s best to type the URL directly into your browser rather than clicking on the link.
Check for HTTPS
When visiting a website, check for “https” in the URL and a lock icon in the address bar. This indicates that the website is secure and legitimate.
#5 Thing: Be Cautious of Urgent or Threatening Language
To avoid falling for these scareware tactics, always take a moment to pause and consider the legitimacy of the email. Legitimate organizations typically communicate professionally and do not use fear tactics to pressure their customers. If the email seems too urgent or alarming, it’s likely a phishing attempt. Trust your instincts and do not provide any personal information or click on any links until you have verified the sender’s identity and the legitimacy of the email. To make you understand what I mean, here is the most common format the scammers use in creating the panic to target.
Subject: Urgent: Your account has been compromised
Dear [your name],
We regret to inform you that your account has been compromised. Our system detected suspicious activity on your account, indicating that an unauthorized user has gained access to your personal information.
To protect your account and personal data, we strongly advise you to reset your password within the next 24 hours. Failure to do so may result in permanent closure of your account and loss of all stored data.
Please click on the following link to reset your password immediately: [link]
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
This email uses scareware tactics to create a sense of urgency and pressure the recipient into clicking on the link and providing their personal information. However, upon closer inspection, the email may contain small inconsistencies or suspicious elements, revealing it to be a phishing attempt.
#6 Thing: Check for Unexpected Attachments
Here, we have made several things to make you even more care about this method. It may look too simple for some, but trust us, practicing it is not as easy as you think.
- Scammers may use attachments to spread malwear or gain access to your personal information.
- Verify the sender’s identity and the legitimacy of the email before opening the attachment.
- Legitimate organizations typically do not send unexpected attachments.
- Scammers may use the attachment to install malware on your device or gain access to personal information.
- Exercise caution and check for any signs of a phishing attempt before opening any email attachments.
Do you think that practicing those 6 things is enough? A big no. There are four other things you need to do to minimize the possibility of being trolled by a scammer. Let’s continue!
#7 Thing: Check for personalization
When trying to spot a phishing’ email, keep an eye out for personalization. Scammers often use generic greetings like “Dear sir/madam” instead of using your name. However, some phishing emails may seem like they’re tailored specifically to you by using your name or other personal information.
Now, I don’t mean that the scammers have suddenly become your best friend or anything, but they may use personalization as a tactic to trick you into thinking the email is legit. So, if you receive an email that seems too good to be true or too personalized to be believable, it’s best to verify the sender’s identity and the legitimacy of the email before taking any further action. Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to phishing attempts!
#8 Thing: Verify the Email Signature
When it comes to spotting phishing emails, one important thing to keep an eye out for is the email signature. Legitimate emails usually have a signature that includes the sender’s name, job title, and contact information like a phone number or email address. If the email seems suspicious and there is no signature or the signature looks unusual, it could be a phishing attempt.
When checking the email signature, watch out for any inconsistencies or abnormalities. For example, a phishing email may contain a fake signature that tries to look authentic but includes misspellings, incorrect information, or strange formatting. Be sure to examine the email signature closely to protect yourself and your organization from potential phishing attempts.
For instance, if you receive an email from your bank requesting personal information, but the email signature is missing or looks suspicious, it’s best to contact your bank directly to verify the legitimacy of the email before providing any personal information. Remember to stay vigilant and check for any signs of a phishing attempt!
#9 Thing: Don’t Believe Everything You See
If you receive an email that raises suspicion or makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s important to take action to protect yourself and your organization. Rather than responding to the email, it’s recommended that you politely decline or apologize and immediately report it to your organization’s Security Operations Center (SOC) or IT department. Remember, phishing emails are designed to trick you, so it’s crucial to trust your instincts and not take any risks with sensitive information. By being vigilant and reporting any suspicious emails, you can help prevent cyber threats and ensure the safety of your organization’s data.
#10 Thing: In Doubt? Contact Your SOC!
If you’re uncertain whether an email is a phishing scam, the tenth step you should take is to contact your SOC (Security Operations Center) or IT department. These teams have the necessary expertise and tools to help you identify and respond to potential security threats. They can investigate the email and advise you on its safety. It’s always better to be cautious and seek professional help if you’re unsure about an email’s legitimacy. By doing so, you can protect yourself from phishing attacks and keep your personal information secure.
But, before contacting your SOC, you must make sure that all mentioned things to do have been tried and you fail to decide. This practice helps SOC have a better time to develop their services instead of an easily solved problem.
#Bonus on Phishing Email: Use Your Instinct!
When you have tried all the things and cannot get a clear conclusion about the legitimacy of an email, you can use your ultimate skill, trust your instincts. If something seems off or too good to be true, it’s best to be cautious and investigate further.
Your instincts are a powerful tool, so don’t ignore them! Be mindful of any red flags or suspicious elements in an email, and take the necessary steps to verify the sender’s identity and the legitimacy of the email.
And if you ever need a little extra motivation, just remember the wise words of Benjamin Franklin: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
So, trust your instincts, stay vigilant, and protect yourself and your organization from potential phishing attempts. Good luck!
In conclusion, identifying and avoiding phishing emails is an important aspect of cybersecurity. By being aware of the signs of a phishing attempt and taking the necessary precautions, you can help protect yourself and your organization from potential threats.
Remember to watch out for suspicious email addresses, check for personalization, verify email signatures and branding, and trust your instincts. Additionally, it’s important to stay informed about new phishing techniques and to educate yourself and your colleagues on best practices for email security.
By working together and staying vigilant, we can help prevent the spread of phishing attempts and safeguard our sensitive information. Stay safe out there, and don’t let those sneaky scammers win!
Tags: Phishing email