Phishing Emails: Recognize and Keep Malicious Emails at Bay

Cybercriminals or hackers target the personal information of their victims by sending out emails. Otherwise known as a phishing scam, this tactic aims to fraudulently obtain and use personal information such as Social Security Number, credit card information, and other bank details.Here are the common characteristics of a phishing email:

  • Usually includes downloadable attachments or links
  • Appears to be coming from a phone company, bank, store/retail establishments, or agencies
  • Calls for an action like clicking a link or downloading an item

According to the Data Breach Investigations Report of 2013, most hackers resort to email as a means of attacking victims. In fact, more than 95% of state-affiliated espionage utilized phishing mails to establish a foothold in the targets’ systems, the report says.Both big companies and ordinary folks can fall prey to this malicious technique. Cyber hackers normally go for the people who have higher positions in a company. One common method used in corporate data hacks is spear phishing.This method characteristically uses names of trusted source to ask for confidential information like a manager’s subordinates or the company’s associates.Despite tighter online security measures employed by companies, web masters, and even the government, there are still many people who take the bait of phishing emails and other tactics used by hackers to compromise privacy.

Researches indicate that for every six malicious email campaigns, the probability of people clicking on these links goes to 80% and even up to 100% for ten emails.Hacking has also been made easy when some sites such as Paypal or social networks utilize a user’s email address as the username. Cyber hackers only need to learn a person’s email address and they can already attempt access to many websites by cracking their password.Email and Online Vulnerabilities: What to Do About ItThe attempts of invading one’s privacy through online means may be becoming more and more aggressive and ingenious but the good news is, it is still up to the target to determine if these attempts succeed or not.Here are tried and proven ways to deter hacking attempts and keep one’s private files private:Calling Before Clicking

Some cyber criminals may pretend to be a company’s human resource team and ask the recipients of their emails to download a certain attachment in order to update their personnel files. This attachment may possibly be an executable malware file. It is therefore wise to call the company and inquire with the human resource team if the email is legitimate or not. Inquiring with other associates and with one’s direct supervisor is also wise. For emails claiming to come from banks and threatening to shut one’s account down if the file is not downloaded immediately, recipients should also call and verify with their banks first.Throw it Out When in DoubtOnline advertising URLs, social media posts, and email links are often utilized by cyber criminals to compromise the victims’ computer. Keep viruses and malwares at bay by being discriminative of these tactics.Even if the source is familiar or known, so long as the posts look suspicious, one should never click the links and simply mark the post or email as Spam or Junk.Utilizing Specialized Email AccountsAn email account for work, an email address for social media, and an email account especially setup for Paypal use – this technique is also a smart move to keep hackers out. Online criminals will find it hard to pin down a victim if they are using different emails for work, socialization, and online purchase.Report Phishing Incidents Immediately

The AWPG, a worldwide coalition which attempts to respond to cybercrimes, welcomes phishing reports in the efforts of minimizing, if not exterminating, privacy invasion online. They can easily be contacted through hacking attempts should also be done locally by calling one’s bank or company’s network administrators of any suspicious activities.Taking Advantage of Antivirus Software or Security CheckupsBecause more people are becoming aware of phishing mails and other hacking tactics, there are many anti-hacking tools, file shredder software, and email protection programs to help people build strong walls of defence to keep cyber criminals out.

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