What Are Common Signs of a Phishing Email?
Phishing activities are usually well-designed to make it difficult for you to identify them. Phishers have specific targets who have something valuable that they intend to get. In the United States, phishing attacks are widespread and increasing. According to a 2021 report by Tessian, employers receive about 14 malevolent emails per year on the lower side.
There is a need to up the cybersecurity measures and educate employees about fishing activities and their role in cybersecurity. Besides, all employees must know the procedure of identifying and reporting phishing activities. This write-up educates you about phishing red flags.
What Is It, and Why Is It a Problem Today?
Phishing is a cybersecurity attack that aims to steal your private data over the internet, such as credit card information. Typically, it is a social engineering strategy in which the attacker (phisher) masquerades as a trusted person or entity and dupes unsuspecting victims.
Emails are the most common source of phishing attacks. However, a sizeable number of these attacks also occur via malicious websites, while a few occur via phones. When attacks occur over the phone, it is called vishing. But phishing via text is called smishing.
The tone of phishing emails is always urgent. Sometimes, it is bait, such as offering you reimbursements. A standard indicator of a phishing attempt has a subject line: request, important, payment, urgent, and attention.
Whatever the case, the phisher encourages victims to fill out specific forms that seem legitimate. Usually, they ask for personal data, typically financial.
The rise in phishing attacks signifies that email communication is full of cybercrime. According to a 2020 Symantec research, in the entire 2020, in every 4200 emails, one email was a phishing email. A successful attack grants phishers a perch within a company’s network. They can easily access critical data, e.g., intellectual property and some instances, money.
Phishing emails are getting harder to spot because attackers are also getting more sophisticated. This makes it harder for untrained employees to spot them. However, there is a range of suggestive signals. Common ones are explained below:
A Strange Tone or Salutation
Phishing red flags come in various ways, but an unfamiliar greeting is sure that someone is interested in something valuable from you. So, check for words that are incorrectly used. For instance, if a family member sounds formal, that could be a phisher.
Besides, if you receive an email that sounds atypical, especially those using a different language from the one you would expect from them. In such scenarios, go further and check for additional red flags. For instance, if the sender addresses you by the name you do not usually use or misspells your name, something might not be correct.
Grammar, Typographical and Typesetting Errors
No professional organization will send you an email with grammar or spelling errors. When you spot poor grammar and (or) spelling mistakes, the likelihood that you are dealing with phishing emails is high. Companies hire copywriters and use grammar software at the same time. Mostly, these companies have a spell checker turned on in their email client. Besides, you can apply autocorrect.
Best of all, a professional copywriter critically analyses all official emails before sending them.That implies that emails sent from any serious company are professional, i.e. they are free from spelling errors and bad grammar.
Email Addresses, Links, and Domain Names Lack Consistence
The domain name, email address, and link are vital in setting apart the different phishing emails from legit emails. If discrepancies exist between those parts, chances are you are dealing with a phisher. In such cases, start by checking any previous communication that matches the same email address. Be vigilant if you find the last email from the same company originating from a different domain or email account.
Phishers are most likely to embed a link in an email. Place your mouse over the link; it will show you the destination URL. The link URL should match the organization that sent you the email for legit organization. If it doesn’t match, that should raise eyebrows. For instance, an email from eBay should have a link ebay.com; otherwise, do not click on that link.
Ultimatums or Requiring Urgent Action
Treat all emails threatening you with any consequences as a possible phishing attack. Typically, the phisher wants you to take immediate action, possibly without thinking. This leaves you susceptible to attacks.
Also, phishers have mastered creating an intense sense of urgency. They either demand or encourage instant action because they feel users will not have enough time to investigate the message content thoroughly but act quickly. If you see an urgent request or threat of any kind, stop and examine that email.
Avoid any unfamiliar email with attachments. Besides, if you are not expecting or did not request a file attachment from the email sender, do not rush to open or download the email extension. It might be helpful to confirm with the sender first.
The attached files may have extensions associated with malware. In other cases, they may have unfamiliar extensions, making them suspicious. Before opening such files, you should scan for viruses.
Unusual request is a common indicator of a phishing attempt. When you receive an email instructing you to do something out of the ordinary, it indicates a likelihood of a malicious message. An abnormal request can be someone asking you for your password, login information, or social security number. In some cases, scammers might ask you to send money.
Replying to a phishing email will expose you to a scammer, meaning you can quickly lose any valuable information or money you have. So do not respond to such messages unless you confirm with the sender. Similarly, if you receive an email message requesting you install software or patch something on your PC, do not attempt that. Alternatively, you can forward such a message to the IT team for further inquiry. It’s the IT team that usually that handles all program installation within a company.
Short but Ambiguous Messages
The norm is phishers will write long, convincing emails that offer a false sense of security. However, others are usually direct but ambiguous. Such messages provide scanty information hoping to count on their ambiguity.
For instance, an attacker can spoof an email from an employee of a company, for example, a software development company. The attacker will then email a client company periodically or constantly with different short messages. The scammer might write, “Here is what you ordered,” alongside an attachment with inscriptions “additional information. “Once you download that attachment, you are susceptible.
Sender Starts a Conversation
Phishers always aim at making an email recipient answer an email. No recipient asks for this email, and that is why senders always look for a hook that will make you reply to that particular email. There are various hooks they can use. For instance, you have won a prize or a lucrative discount percentage, but you can only benefit from that discount if you open the attached documents or click the provided link.
If you did not opt for any marketing or promotional campaigns, that email could be a possible phishing attack. Only click on newsletter or marketing materials from sources you are fully knowledgeable about.
Request for credentials, payment information, or other personal details
Phishing attacks are getting high-tech. They use state-of-the-art techniques to beat the cybersecurity measures put into place by the organization. Some scammers create dummy landing pages with links that will direct to an email that seems official. When you’ve been phished landing page is the place you could think it can occur.
Like an actual landing page, a counterfeit landing page will have convincing features, including unique selling propositions, striking headline, and benefits
However, it may lack social proof. Scammers will out rightly request payments to resolve an urgent issue or place a login box on the landing page. Do not rush to send money or offer information. Instead, check out the authenticity of landing pages. Here is how:
- Erroneous web address – counterfeit landing pages mimic web address/URL of lawful companies. If you spot typography, it could be phishing.
- A missing footer or navigation system is a fake landing page skeleton of the authentic landing page. It has massive structural deficiencies, for instance, the footer and the header.
- Divergent information collection –although fake landing pages mimic legit ones, they always diverge from the norm. Their information collection forms contain portions that slightly differ from what a lawful company offers.
Do not click on links on landing pages if you are not sure they belong to a legit company. Also, do not download attachments or confirm your personal information.
Phishing Attack Prevention Tactics
One of the most significant risks involved in using e-mail is phishing attacks. To protect yourself from such attacks, try the following measures:
- Phishing fire drill –a phishing drill helps keep the company’s employees on alert. Most companies conduct training by running dummy phishing campaigns. While it may feel uncomfortable, it may help increase awareness of the impact of an attack when well done. Besides, it helps pinpoint weak points.
- Multifactor authentication –besides password, multifactor authentication uses additional security measures, e.g., one-time passcode usually sent to your mobile number or use of a biometric ID. In this case, a password is useless without a phone or biometric ID.
- Employ spam filters to detect blank senders and viruses
- Educating employees about phishing attacks
- Encrypting all company sensitive data
- Change passwords more often
Any individual or organization on the web, from a laptop repair service to a law firm will experience one or more forms of phishing attacks. You cannot say that these attacks will end soon; in fact, they are on the rise. You must learn more about phishing and phishers to stay safe. Good thing; phishing is avoidable, but you must know how to identify and prevent them correctly.
Since phishing attacks are on the rise, it its vital that every web user phishes red flags. Learn how a common indicator of a phishing attempt is presented in this article.