Emails are one of the most common sources of viruses. Whether you receive an email with an infected file or are targeted by a phishing scam, hackers still rely on email scams to try and get access to your sensitive information.
Keeping yourself safe in an online world of cybercrime has been the focus for both businesses and individuals. But to keep your computer safe, you must learn how to recognize and deal with dangerous emails. Many email clients like Yahoo Mail and Gmail have built-in spam filters, but there’s no guarantee a rogue message won’t slip through.
Gmail has even implemented the “This message seems dangerous” warning into their platform. But even that isn’t enough, and sometimes it’s obviously wrong.
With an estimated 205 billion emails sent each day globally, how do you keep yourself safe online?
What Threats Do Phishing Emails Harbor?
Phishing attacks are a type of online cybercrime where fake email messages are produced, pretending to be from a real source such as an official business or a close friend. The email might ask for personal details such as login information or bank details or ask you to open a virus-infested attachment.
The course of action to take when you receive a phishing email is to delete it. While that sounds easy enough, the challenging part is recognizing the phishing attempt initially. Well-made phishing emails look like genuine messages at first glance. They might include a real-looking business logo in the header or appear to be written by an employee.
Common Red Flags in Potentially Unsafe EmailsFake Senders
Check the domain of the sender’s email address first, especially if the email appears to be from a company. Cybercriminals will always try to deceive you with the small details.
- A sender with the address “[email protected]” should be suspicious since emails from Amazon usually end with “@amazon.com.”
- Another strategy is to replace a character in the address with a similar-looking one, such as using the numeric “0” in place of a capital “O” or a lowercase “l” instead of a capital “I.”
Is it ever safe to open an unknown email? No. You should avoid doing so at all costs, though that might not be an option in business.
Inspect the links to ensure they lead where they claim they do before clicking on them. Malicious links are often hidden amongst several genuine ones. If the link comes from a link shortening service (such as bit.ly), don’t click it.
Poorly Written Body Text
Most businesses will use proper grammar and spelling in their correspondence with you. Spelling and grammatical mistakes are a huge red flag.
You might notice the email refers to you as a “valued customer” or by no name at all, because. the cybercriminals likely don’t know your real name. If you’re working closely with a business, they should know your name.
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t real. Be aware of fake discounts, promotions, and other limited time offers.
Other fake emails will try to make you panic or “act immediately” because your computer is apparently infected with a virus or your bank account details have been compromised.
You’ve probably been told not to trust salespeople who are aggressively selling something to you. The same principle applies to your emails. If it seems suspicious, mark it as spam and move on.
Be wary of attachments which could infect your computer with Trojans, viruses, and other threats that infect your PC or network. Trojans are a popular virus that infect your computer by creating a backdoor for other malicious software to infiltrate your system.
We recommend that you scan emails with attachments using an antivirus program before downloading them, and always avoid executable files (ending in .exe extensions) as they’re a prime entry point for malicious code.
Pay special attention to compressed files like RARs and ZIPs, which usually can’t be scanned until after downloading. These files are a huge risk and something that you should avoid unless you know the sender.
Forging Another Identity
Keep in mind that banks, social networking sites, and government institutions never contact you for sensitive information via email.
Official communication with the IRS, for instance, is always conducted through regular mail or by telephone. Banks will never ask for passwords or account numbers directly through emails.
If the message seems to be from a friend or a business, try to contact them by phone or by other means first to verify the legitimacy of the email.
No defense is ever perfect. Here are some tactics you can use to help prevent or mitigate the impact of malicious emails well before they affect you.
Look in your email client settings for an option to open emails in plain text only (without HTML, formatting, or images) so that any malicious scripts don’t get a chance to run. This way, you can delete dangerous messages before the threat can act.
Installing an Antivirus
No matter how careful you are, you can’t watch everything at once. An antivirus solution is always the best way to protect yourself online. Most of the popular antivirus programs offer email scanning, attachment checks, and virus removal/quarantine in case a threat does pass through your defenses.