How to Detect Phishing Emails
Within the IT Security world and beyond, malicious actors are utilizing phishing attacks in order to lure employees into clicking a link and exposing valuable information. The methods of these types of attacks vary, but typically result in fairly severe security breaches. These attacks occur daily, however they can be strategically avoided if you know what to look for.
Phishing emails occasionally present themselves in a rather obvious form using rudimentary tactics, an example being the “Nigerian Prince”. However, many attacks are much more stealth and convincing. This raises the all-important question: How do I these detect phishing emails?
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 of these organizations if reputable, will never solicit this information via email, and you should always be wary to provide it.
Deceptive Domain Name
Deceptive domain names are a popular tactic among cyber criminals. Fraudulent emails that incorporate this common ploy 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.
In order to detect a phishing email employing this tactic, make sure that the end of the domain name matches the company claiming to be emailing you. For example, info.companyname.com would be considered a child of companyname.com, and actually originate from the real company. Alternatively, companyname.com.malevolentdomain.com would not originate from the actual company, as the companyname.com portion is not the end of the actual domain name.
These domain names are intentionally confusing, as their purpose is to convince potential victims that they originate from a reputable source. Always check the email address within the header, and if it seems suspicious, do not open the email.
Who Initiated the Correspondence?
Have you ever received an email claiming that you won something amazing like a free cruise or brand new smartphone? If this does happen to you, but you know that you never submitted your information for this type of contest or lottery, it is safe to assume that this email is spam.
Another common yet easily identifiable phishing attack presents itself in the form of a request for money. These requests may only occur after a couple of emails back and forth, but if someone questionable you are corresponding with starts asking for funds to cover fees or random expenses, it is very likely a scam.
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.
With these tips you will more easily be able to detect phishing emails, and avoid exposing your private information to cyber-criminals. There is no single method that can work in all situations, but with those common red-flags in mind, you will know what to keep an eye out for.
If you would like to discuss other methods and tools to utilize in order to further detect and avoid phishing emails, reach out to us at email@example.com.