Phishing emails are more prevalent than ever. Chances are you see them every day in your personal or business email folders. Many of us are familiar with them and don’t fall for the scams, but others are not, and clicking on one can be a recipe for disaster.
What are phishing emails?
Phishing is a serious cybercrime and in many cases, phishing artists have been prosecuted and fined or imprisoned. But there are plenty still out there!
Phishing victims are contacted by email (or phone) by someone who looks to be a legitimate person or institution. The point of the phishing scheme is to lure individuals into taking action that will prompt them to provide sensitive information to the scammers, especially Social Security numbers, bank account and credit card numbers, and passwords that will provide online access to other kinds of sensitive information. Financial loss and identity theft are often the results of phishing scams.
Here are a few typical features of phishing emails.
- You’ll read statements that are too good to be true, such as notices that you’ve won millions in a lottery or that a long-lost relative has left you a sizeable sum of money.
- The writer often tries to impose a sense of urgency. For example, they might state that an important account will be lost or deactivated if you don’t click on the link now. If this were a legitimate company, you would have had many notices and chances to respond.
- There is often a hyperlink to click, but if you look closely, you’ll often notice that the spelling may be incorrect, like Chacebank instead of Chasebank. If you hover over the URL, you can see from whom it came.
- There are often attachments that contain ransomware or other viruses. These should never be opened.
So, how do you avoid phishing emails?
Phishing emails aren’t a given. There are indeed ways to keep them out of your email box. Here are a few tips.
Up to Date Software
It’s best to keep your software up to date. Good anti-malware software is essential as are security patches for your operating system and any packages you use. Updating your software – either at home or at your business – takes relatively little time and could save you tons of headaches.
Use multi-factor authentication for your accounts, both personal and business. Many companies will require two or more credentials in order to log into your account, like a face ID or a number from an authentication app in addition to the usual login. This can stop hackers from getting into the account, even if they do manage to nab your username and password.
Back up your data to a hard drive or Cloud-based storage. Make sure those backups aren’t connected to your home network. Do this with your phone as well because it is just as vulnerable – if not more – to phishing scams.
More and more individuals conduct business from their smart phones so, for your protection, make sure automatic updates happen on your phone. Not updating regularly could leave you vulnerable to hackers.
Use high-quality firewalls to protect your computer from outside intruders. Consider two different kinds: a desktop firewall and a network firewall. This will offer the ultimate in protection and should greatly reduce the odds of you being infiltrated by hackers.
Stay informed about phishing techniques, and if you’re a business owner make sure your employees are equally as savvy about these scams. For example, the greeting is often generic (Dear Customer, etc.), poor formatting is often present, as are misspellings and grammatical errors, and the sender information is generally quite unusual. In addition, alarming content is often the MO here, so don’t panic (and teach your employees not to panic) when you or they receive one of these emails.
There are several other ways to avoid phishing emails or reduce the number you receive, including keeping your browser up to date or installing an anti-phishing toolbar on your internet browser. This way, if you click on a nefarious link, you’ll be stopped before you get to any website that could harm you and your computer.
At Stillwater IT, we can show you how to protect yourself from falling prey to phishing scams and help you with cloud-based solutions that secure your precious data from hackers. We’re experts in all kinds of hardware and software and are eager to assist you in setting up your home or business IT so that you remain protected. For more information, call us at 604-899-1105.