How to Spot a Malicious Email

How to Spot a Malicious Email

Do you know how to spot the difference between a legitimate email and a malicious email? In our increasingly digital world, malicious actors are always looking for ways to manipulate unsuspecting victims and gain access to private information online. Employees at a company can be lured into clicking a link and exposing valuable internal information.

These phishing attempts occur daily, but they can be strategically avoided if you know what to look for. Let’s explore some of the red flags that you should keep an eye out for in order to avoid a fraudulent email and risk exposing your private information.

Deceptive From Address

Deceptive from addresses are a popular tactic among cyber criminals. These appear legitimate as many email inboxes exclusively present the display name. However, upon further scrutiny the last portion of a domain can reveal a crafty criminal.

Maybe it’s a letter that is missing, or the entire address contains a jumble of letters and numbers. If something looks strange in the address, don’t trust the email. Even if the display name seems familiar, always make sure to look at the actual email address that the message is coming from. This can be a huge red flag if and when an email feels suspicious.

Strange Links

It is so important to confirm that a link is legitimate before clicking, especially if things don’t feel right. It is quite common that cyber criminals will embed viruses or malware within links and attachments. One quick way to ensure that a link is secure, is to hover your mouse over it in order to confirm the domain address.

If there is any doubt at all, do not click the link or attachment. It is best to give the company a call and verify the email directly from the supposed source.

Spelling & Grammar Mistakes

Very subtle yet strong indicators of a malicious email are grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. If you notice misspelled words and misplaced punctuation or apostrophes, there is a chance that the email in question is a scam. Remain attentive and skeptical when dealing with emails that don’t quite look as professional or legitimate as they should.

Personal Information Request

One immediate red-flag is the request of personal information. Even the most inconspicuous email should be doubted when it asks for information that is personal. These types of requests often include account numbers or passwords, and are disguised as a reputable company that you might do business with. Most reputable organizations will never solicit this information via email, and you should always be wary to provide it.

Threatening Subject Lines

Another identifiable red-flag is some form of intimidating subject line that invokes a sense of urgency. A few common examples of these are “unauthorized login detected” or “your account has been closed”. These subject lines are an attempt to strike fear in an unwitting target in order to evoke an immediate uninformed response and expose sensitive information.

It is quite common that cyber criminals will pose as a government agency in order to elicit a similar emotional response from an unsuspecting individual. These emails might claim to be delivered from the IRS or FBI, but in reality they are phishing attacks in disguise. It is very uncommon in the US that any government agency initiates contact through email, as this is not part of their rather specific set of protocols.

No one is completely immune to fraudulent emails, and many organizations are more susceptible than they realize. These five tips are a great place to start when improving your ability to spot fraudulent emails and avoid phishing attempts. If you’d like to explore other methods, and determine the best tactics for your organization, reach out to us today.