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6 Phishing indicators you should be aware of

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

After the attack on furniture retailer Vhive in March 2021, the hacking group known as “Altdos” have struck again, this time targeting consumer electronics retailer Audio House.

While it is still unclear how the hackers gained entry, the impacts are real, with both organisations shutting down their websites for investigation.

To help lower your risk of a potential data breach, we are going to look into one of the most common ways attackers gain entry. Phishing.

Phishing emails have come a long way. While we are still seeing the classic "Nigerian Prince" scams, phishing attacks have evolved to be

much more sophisticated than that. Cyber attackers are targeting your login credentials. Users typically use the same password across different platforms. Having a compromised password can mean multiple breaches.

With the rise of bitcoin and ransomware, attackers are also using phishing emails to get you to download and open files. These emails can be masked as job applications or even purchase orders that may seem harmless.

What Are The Common Indicators

The Difference in Tone or Greeting

Impersonation attacks are one of the common forms of phishing attacks. It typically involves an email that seems to come from a trusted source with a specific request.

For instance, if you were to receive an email from your colleague who, over the years, always start their emails with "Hi John", it would be suspicious when they start an email with "Dear John", or when their email signature looks different, or perhaps it could be their choice of words.

If a message seems strange, it's worth looking for other indicators that this could be a phishing email.

Spelling Errors

One of the more common signs of a phishing email is spelling errors. These errors could be accidental, due to a mistranslation from another language, or even intentionally left in by the attacker to "trick" email spam filters and hoping you don't recognise them.

Most businesses use some form of auto-correct to check for spelling errors. While a legitimate email can contain spelling and grammatical errors, it may also be a sign of a phishing attempt.

Similar, yet Different Email Address

Some attackers use similar-looking domains that might be easy to miss. Maybe it is changing and ‘o’ to a ‘0’ or having one missing alphabet in the email address. It is worth checking against previous correspondence that originating email addresses match. If there is an embedded link in the email, hover the pointer over the link to verify what "pops up".

Suspicious Attachments

If an email with a file attachment is unexpected or received from an unfamiliar source, open these files with caution. Especially if with the file extensions (.zip, .exe, .scr, .docm, etc.) Always flag the file to be virus-scanned before opening.

Odd/Unusual Request

If an email asks for something to be done that is not the norm, that might be another indicator of a potentially malicious email. If the request appears suspicious, look out for other indicators. Request for any sensitive information such as login credentials and personal data should be treated with caution.

Suspicious Links & Websites

One of the more sophisticated phishing emails is when an attacker has created a fake landing page that recipients are directed to by a link in an official-looking email. The fake landing page will have a login box or request for payment to be made. If the email was unexpected, recipients should visit the website from which the email has supposedly come by typing in the URL – rather than clicking on a link – to avoid entering their login credentials of the fake site or making a payment to the attacker.

When in doubt, call. Call the sender in question to find out if the email is legitimate. Raising the security awareness of everyone in the organisation is the best defence against phishing emails. Contact us to learn more about how you can better prepare your team members against phishing threats.

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