One of the first things most people do every day is check email. With the amount of email we get, it’s usually easy to tell which ones are spam, but hackers are making it more difficult to spot what’s spam and what could be a cyber attack. All they need you to do is click on a link in an email or open an attachment to launch a virus. Before you know it, your computer is infected and you can't access anything.
So many cyber attacks are delivered via email, that it’s extremely important to be aware of what’s in an email and know what to look out for.
To improve your email security, here are six tips that will help you prevent a cyber attack.
1) Check the “From” Field to Validate the Sender
Always verify that you know the sender’s email address and ask yourself “Do I usually communicate with this person?” If the answer is no, it’s best to delete the email and move on to the next.
You should carefully read the “from” field to make sure you recognize the sender’s email address. Hackers are getting smarter by using an email address that looks like it’s from someone you know. For example, email@example.com may look like firstname.lastname@example.org. It can be easy to overlook if you’re not paying attention and before you know it, you’ve already clicked on the link you shouldn’t have clicked and your computer is infected.
Keep your eyes peeled and pay close attention to the actual sender in the “from” field. Try to check with the person who sent the message via phone or in person to verify it was really the person who sent it. Here’s an example of a targeted email attack. You can see the domain name is spelled incorrectly with an additional "m" with the hacker hoping it's overlooked.
Image Credit: Microsoft
2) Never Open Attachments
If you’re not expecting an attachment, it’s best not to open it. Opening an attachment can launch a virus on your computer and your entire network. If you are unsure whether you should have received the attachment, call the sender and verify if the attachment was really from that person.
If something about the attachment seems suspicious, definitely do not open it and delete the e-mail. Don’t take the risk of putting your computer under attack.
3) Check the Link Before You Click
Always hover your mouse over embedded links in an email message to check the URL. For example, a hacker may try to trick you into clicking on www.bankofarnerica.com instead of www.bankfoamerica.com. The “m” is really two characters “r” and “n.” A link can look legitimate, but when you hover over it, you may find that it is really a malicious link trying to put malware onto your computer.
Here’s an example.
Image Credit: Infosec Institute
4) Delete. Don’t Unsubscribe
Clicking unsubscribe can be a security risk. When you click on the link, if it opens up the sender’s website, you’re giving the sender more information about yourself. The sender will be able to see your geographic location based on your IP address, what browser you’re using and even the e-mail software you use.
Even worse, if you click on the link and it opens up a spammer’s website, you may get malware installed on your computer. Best practice is to delete and not click on the unsubscribe link.