A couple of weeks ago, there was a mandatory ‘here’s how to help keep the company from falling prey to cyber attacks’ lecture at Cetus. We all trooped downstairs, cramming into one of our board rooms, mugs clinking and teas sloshing. One of the lovely ladies from Barclays came in to give us a word of warning- or forty- on how to spot nefarious activity and not fall prey to a scam. By the end of it we were all ready to delete our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, never use an ATM, and I seriously started questioning my role within social media. It was quite the terrifying afternoon. Between social engineering, ransomware and phishing, it’s a miracle we all aren’t in debt from scammers. But the most terrifying aspect was learning just how prevalent phishing attacks are.
Big ransomware scams make the news constantly- splashed across the news, Sharon from HR standing at the water cooler to share the details in whispers to anyone who passes by- but phishing is the bigger threat here. In reality, a ransomware attack usually only demands several hundreds of pounds from the organisation it invades, while a phishing scam generally scams thousands of pounds from the victim. Not only that, but it’s easier for the cyber criminal to carry out a phishing attack. Now that I’ve given you something short of a heart attack (sorry), let’s turn this around shall we? Here are a few key ways of keeping you off the phisherman’s hook.
Beware of the sender
It doesn’t really matter whether it’s personal or corporate, receiving an email either makes you want to go on an extended holiday or celebrate. At work you’re usually too busy opening and replying in record time to get on with the mountain of tasks that grows with every email. It’s fair to say that you don’t always check who the sender is. I mean, we’re all weary of any Arabian Prince trying to get into contact, but aside from that we’re pretty chill for the most part. If they’ve gone to the trouble of finding your email address (I still can’t figure out how people manage to find me) then chances are they really need to chat, right?
Depending on how much of a nightmare you are in life, you probably won’t know the hacker. So before you jump into your emerging pile of unopened emails, take a quick look. If you suddenly get an email from someone you don’t speak to regularly on the topic of something that you don’t normally think about, be slightly weary. Check the sender’s address- does it look a bit weird? Is there a random ‘0’ instead of an ‘O’? Could that ‘i’ actually be Vietnamese character ‘ỉ’? Is there an extra letter or number in the address that shouldn’t be there? If you see one of these little tricks, bonus points for your great eyesight, and definitely get the email checked out.
‘I get scammed with a little help from my friends’
Did the email check out, but you’re still not 100% sure if you need to detonate your computer immediately to avoid any viruses escaping through the network? Take a quick look at the list of people that received the email. Do you know them? Is it a strange group, ie the sales group being added one name at a time instead of the group link? The cyber criminal might be targeting a large number of people in your organisation, so if you see people on the list that you wouldn’t normally be in contact with, or from a department that has nothing to do with yours, be extra careful.
Bit of a dodgy subject line
Aside from Sharon’s bi-monthly suggestion for drinks in the pub across the way after work on a Monday night, you should really only be getting emails that directly relate to your job function. That is, unless you’re in marketing- we seem to get our noses into plenty of unrelated jobs. If you’re getting emails about things that you know you’re not privy to or they make absolutely no sense to you, don’t open it. If it’s not spam, it’ll be malware. If you do happen to open it (oopsie), check if the email is a reply to one that you didn’t send. Does the message match the subject line? A misalignment of the two should send up an army of red flags. Also, while we all have the office oddball that likes to reply to emails at 3am, is it normal to be receiving this email from this sender at this particular hour?
Attachments and hyperlinks of doom
We’ve all opened random attachments or clicked on hyperlinks that we weren’t quite sure about and sighed with relief when it was just a video of cats acting strangely. We know we shouldn’t, but that curiosity can’t be helped. Besides, it could be important, or cats, after all. A few things to check before you right click; did you expect the attachment? Is it a common file type that you would normally receive? Does it have a weird name, or strange symbols in the file name? If you answer yes to these, maybe don’t open it. It’s quite likely to be malicious.
Not quite what you were expecting?
If you receive an email that contains unsettling, startling or urgent content that requires immediate action on your part, it’s most likely a phishing attack. There have been so many of these popping up recently, panicking the nation. At the moment, a common scam is an email from your bank claiming that your account has been hacked and you need to login straightaway, or even move the rest of your funds to another account. For the Netflix lovers among you, there have also been emails being received saying that billing information needs to be updated. Don’t fall for it. If the email includes a link to login or change account details, be extra weary. Don’t use links, web addresses or phone numbers.
Keeping yourself protected from any cyber crime can be a scary business, but even more so when it’s something you could very well unwillingly stumble into. It takes more than trusting your spam filter to keep yourself safe, having a strong cyber security solution is crucial. We work very closely with Check Point to craft solutions that stand tall against phishing, ransomware bots and all kind of nasties, using their SandBlast advanced endpoint threat prevention. Have a chat with our experts to see how we can whisk some cyber security into your perfect infrastructure solution so that it’s one less thing you need to worry about.
Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.