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Phishing is not a new sensation, as cyber hackers are using it since mid-1990s to gain access to confidential information. And with time phishing attacks are becoming complex and hard to detect. Cyber criminals are using deceptive tactics, emails, and websites to trick users into downloading infected attachments, clicking malicious links, or transmitting sensitive information.
Phishing emails are capable of masking as known people or brands. The aim of phishing emails is to trick recipient into believing that the message is from legitimate source. Everyone is on the target but by keeping few things in mind one stay protected because phishing emails are never perfect.
There are few things you can look for that will help you spot phishing mails and differentiate between the genuine one.
First step to spot a phishing email is to know what Phishing is?
What is Phishing?
In simple words it is an email sent to a recipient with the aim of making him perform a task. To make a false mail look legitimate bad guys can use social engineering techniques. They are most dangerous as they appear genuine to the recipient.
Why Cyber Criminals use Social Engineering Techniques?
Social networking sites are the easiest way of collecting user information from date of birth to employer details. Cybercriminals get access to all this information without tricking users or hacking a system. This collected data helps them to shortlist target and design social engineered phishing email that are hard to detect. These mails are designed with precision that even email filters does not detect them.
But still by keeping certain tips in mind one can spot a phishing email as they have some common characteristics.
Here, we explain tips to identify phishing emails.
Tips to Identify Phishing Email
Phishing emails are one of the most common type of online threat. They are commonly created to trigger emotions like fear, anger, greed, curiosity, sympathy. Therefore, it is important to educate workforce about its common characteristics and the action to be taken when they encounter such a threat.
1. Emails asking for immediate action
If you receive any emails with negative and threatening consequence like loss of a job, important opportunity if immediate action is not taken, are often phishing emails. Cybercriminals use this approach to grab recipient’s attention and make them take quick action without even giving it a second thought or even cross checking the mail for legitimacy.
2. Emails ask you to verify personal details
If you receive an email that looks authentic but is requesting, you to verify personal information that your company or any legitimate organization would never ask for such as login credentials or banking details. Do not reply or click on any links that are present in the email.
However, if you suspect that it is a genuine mail, reach out to the contact in person and confirm. Avoid using communication method provided in the email.
3. Emails with spelling mistake and grammatical error
Another most common way of spotting a phishing email is spelling mistake and grammatical error. If you receive an email with lots of spelling mistake or grammatical error never click on any link received or reply to the email. As a genuine company will never send out mails with spelling or grammatical errors.
4. Email and web address don’t look real
Frequently it is the case that cyber criminals send phishing emails from an address that looks genuine. As this is the best way to trick genuine user into clicking on any of the malicious link sent in the mail. But if you take a close look at the email you can easily identify the fake email for example @microsft.com as opposed to @microsoft.com.
5. Emails with unaccustomed salutation
Email sent between colleagues usually have a set format in terms of salutation too, if you receive an email that start with anything unfamiliar. Do not fall for such email delete them immediately they can be phishing emails.
6. Poor language
Identifying phishing email is not difficult by simply taking look at the email language you can identify a phishing email. Genuine companies never send mails with grammatical or spelling errors as they use spell checkers and their emails are constructed by professional writers. If you receive an email of this type, then it is a strong indicator the email you are falling for is phishing email.
7. Suspicious Attachments
If you receive an email that has attachment alarm bells should ring as most work-related file sharing is now done via OneDrive, SharePoint, or Dropbox. Therefore, if you receive internal emails with attachments never open or download them. The attachment can have malicious URL, virus, trojan.
8. Email too good to be true
Emails that promise recipient a reward or gift if they click on a link or download the attachment are usually phishing emails. Never forget anything that is too good to be true is usually fake therefore never fall for such gimmicks.
9. Emails sent from public email addresses
Sender’s email address is the biggest identifier that help you recognize a phishing or a legitimate mail. Often cybercriminals use public address like yahoo.com, gmail.com or others to send out phishing emails. If you receive an email that says it from your bank but has a public email address, never trust it as it is surely a trap.
When in doubt, trust nothing: Often cybercriminals steal your personal information by sending links in emails, online advertising, or posting on social media. Therefore, if your suspect any source or email never open it simply delete it to stay safe.
To stay safe, you need to weigh all the elements explained above and never fall for such gimmicks. Sender’s address can be hoaxed, signatures can be stolen, domains can be mistyped, accounts can be hacked therefore you need to be extra cautious before trusting anything. Not always you will be able to identify an email as spam, scam, therefore if everything checks out but your gut tells something is not right, trust yourself and never fall for the trap.
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Also remember reputable banks, financial institutes, companies never send unsolicited mails or ask you to share your credentials. Only threat actors will do things like this and will fool users to get access to their confidential details.