With each passing day, cybercriminals are devising newer methods for phishing gullible individuals. Their latest strategies make it near impossible to detect if an email is genuine or fake even for large corporates. Thus without proper knowledge of this cyber-attack, organizations remain under a constant threat of getting social engineered and eventually hacked.
For this reason, today, we will learn how to detect fraud by looking at various phishing email examples. After reading this article, you can readily identify scams and stay safe in cyberspace.
What is phishing via email?
Phishing is a social engineering method adopted by cybercriminals to exploit the human side of an organization’s security. Phishing comes from the word “Fishing.” Intuitively, this technique is a method of baiting a person to click a malicious link that takes them to a website where their personal information gets compromised. Furthermore, the hacker may get some malware installed in their system. The most popular vector of phishing is email. Blackhat hackers design these emails to look as if they came from a legitimate company, bank, or government agency. With proper information gathering, these emails can convincingly appear as if they were sent by one of your friends, colleagues, relatives, or other acquaintances.
A quick tip to instantaneously identify a phishing attack
If you are not expecting an email from the sender, beware and double-check with the sender on another media platform like WhatsApp, Messenger, etc.
How to spot phishing emails?
1. Generic salutation:
Remember, genuine companies do not request any personal information via email. If you see generic greetings like “Dear customer,” make some effort to check if it is legit or not. After all, cross-checking doesn’t harm anybody. Real companies already have their name in their databases, so they will probably call you by your name, “Dear John.”
2. Asking for a password and encryption:
If an email asks for a password for whatever purposes, be sure that it may be a plot. Companies generally send encrypted links to reset passwords in the worst-case scenario. Do not ever reply with your password and if redirected to a “Password Reset” page, look at the URL bar to see if the connection is encrypted, i.e, HTTPS://. The letter s in HTTPS stands for secure, meaning it is encrypted using SSH or comparable protocols.
3. Domain emails:
Domain emails signify that an email is coming from the actual company. To know if a mail is genuine, look at the from section and notice if the domain resembles the company’s name. Here is an example of an original email ID from PayPal: email@example.com. If altered, it may look like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Although some small companies may use Gmail, Zoho Mail, or Office 365 as their mail providers, always open links in a safe sandboxed mode. Additionally, you can compare the given address with their customer care email domain for any similarities by visiting their official website.
4. Spelling and grammar mistakes:
This is a no-brainer because companies recruit top talents to compose well-written emails. Hackers try to deceive the less observant and make them their primary targets. Look for grammar and spelling errors using online tools.
5. Malicious attachments:
Carefully examine any attachment sent via email before opening it. It may contain harmful software like Trojans or backdoors that can compromise your PC’s security. If a document is unsolicited, immediately send that mail to the trash.
6. Misleading hyperlinks:
Hover your mouse over any hyperlink to examine if it leads to a legit website. If its domain is something other than the sender’s website, discard the email immediately.
7. Emotional exploitation:
No respectable company coerces its customers to visit any particular website. If the mail contains psychological stressors that drive anxiety, fear other similar emotions, it may indicate that the mail may be coming from a cracker.
Following these steps will ensure that you do not get into a phishing scam. However, they don’t make you entirely immune to social engineering attacks. Always put your intuition over emotions and refrain from clicking any links without verification. Using a sandboxed environment can also be of immense benefit. Seek technical assistance from reputable cybersecurity professionals to set up one.