Are you seeing more and more suspicious emails darken your inbox? You’re not the only one… millions of others are, too. It’s called “Phishing” and online thieves are getting pretty darn good at it. With phony covid tax rebates, government vaccination forms, and delivery scams, it’s getting harder and harder to tell whether these emails are legitimate or not. The general principle in avoiding these scams is to (a) always look at the sender’s email to verify it is from the correct domain and (b) make sure they are a trustworthy source.
Your standard email clients such as Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo Mail will scan and filter out most malicious emails and delete them, however, this may not stop all phishing-related attacks from sneaking into your inbox.
Spotting Dangerous Attachments or Links.
Example of fraudulent email:
It can be tough to recognize emails carrying malware, spyware, ransomware, and other viruses that cause harm to your computer or device. Fraudsters have figured out ways to disguise their emails and imitate genuine companies such as Microsoft, Apple, or Amazon so it’s important that you don’t click on links or attachments from these sources unless you have recently purchased a product and are expecting timely updates for delivery or code-activated purchases. The same goes for Covid-19 testing, vaccination cards or forms, tax documents, and even fraudulent charges from your bank. If you have concerns that deal with your personal information the best option is to call the source directly and avoid dealing with email.
What Types of Files to be Cautious of?
Unfortunately, almost all types of computer-related files could infect your computer if they are equipped to do so. Images, videos, audio files, office documents (Word, Excel), executable files, and compressed files could be disguised as something else. To double-check the safety of these files you can scan them for viruses and malware, just be sure to not open the file after downloading, instead right-click on it and choose the option to scan with Microsoft Defender. If you are using a Mac, you can locate the file or folder you wish to scan and either right-click (if you have a two-button mouse) or hit ctrl+click on the file to bring up the secondary click options. Lastly, click Scan with Sophos Home or expand Services and then choose Scan with Sophos Home.
What Types of Attachments to be Cautious of?
Hackers will typically use attachment names that are very long so that you can’t view the characters at the end, which are known as file extensions. However, you may be able to hover the cursor over the attachment to reveal the full name of the file, including the extension at the end. Most users won’t have the knowledge to identify a legitimate extension from one that’s not so your safest bet is to just delete the attachment entirely.
Keep your eyes peeled for ISO files, very rarely will anyone ever send you an ISO file by email, if you see this attachment delete it right away! Other files and attachments to be careful of include EXE files, Compressed files, and Installers these can be used to download legitimate software or purchased products but if they are randomly sent to you via email, they are red flags and should be deleted.
Learning how to identify harmful emails, attachments, and files will help to protect yourself from malicious activity. You may also want to implement some type of email protection such as “spam filtering” into your email application. Doing so will scan for dangerous files and attachments that can cause harm to your device. Lastly, if you’ve opened a spam attachment or downloaded a damaging file, run your computer’s malware scan to check for issues and call a technical support professional immediately.