Distractions and stress caused by remote work, the pandemic and other turmoil has caused an increase in attempts by threat actors to deceive their targets through the use of “phishing” emails.  Designed to trick users into enabling the threat actor to gain access to accounts, steal money, and collect sensitive data, among other nefarious outcomes, a “phish” can appear at first glance like a legitimate communication. The threat actor will use deceitful tactics to lure the recipient into opening the offending email, clicking embedded links, or sending sensitive information in response to the email.

With the volume of email that we receive continuously increasing over time, we might not always pay as much attention as we should to what we open.  On top of that, threat actors have become increasingly tactful and manipulative. Knowing the key signals of a phish can play a major role in thwarting these attacks.

  1. Call to action: The scammer will ask the recipient to do something (click on a link, attachment or provide information directly).
  2. Emotion or urgency: The email will try to create a sense of urgency and state that the requested action needs to be addressed urgently. The communication may also try to manipulate the recipient’s emotions, especially with fear of repercussion if he or she fails to respond or take action.
  3. Malicious intent: These phishing emails are designed to cause harm. If the victim clicks on the link, malware could be installed on the user’s computer that could provide remote access to the computer, steal data such as passwords or encrypt the user’s files seeking ransom.

Not only will a phishing email attempt to manipulate the recipient’s emotions.  These communications are often formatted to appear as if they emanate from a trustworthy source. The recipient should always analyze three critical aspects of an email to assess whether the email is a phish:

  1. Sender details: who sent the email? Always check the ‘from’ email address and make sure it is a legitimate sender, scammers will often use slightly misspelled addresses. Keep in mind however, the ‘from’ address can be spoofed. Also ensure that the email is not addressed to “undisclosed recipients.”
  2. Context: What is the purpose of the email? Is this a request that the recipient would normally receive from this sender?
  3. Content: What does the email contain? Does the email contain language that the sender normally uses?

If you receive an email that you think is suspicious and could be a potential phishing email, do not open it (or any embedded links).  Immediately report it to your supervisor or IT department. Let them know what the email message contains and if you clicked on any of the links that were in the email. bit-x-bit can help by providing online training targeted towards identifying and thwarting phishing attempts.  Feel free to contact us at 412 325 4033 or info@bit-x-bit.com