I actually like spam. The meat that is. Slice it thin, fry it and have it on toast. Lovely snack. I don’t like email spam. It’s a shame that this wonderful snack has been tarred with the brush of unwanted emails.
Do you remember when that was all spam was? Just an unwanted email? Just something taking up space and time? Spam is now a major threat. Spam (or phishing email as it’s called these days, what is it with IT and their crazy names?!) is cleverly crafted to look like something that is useful and genuine. Its created to entice you into clicking a link. A link that will then try and circumvent all your security and download a piece of software that is designed to give access to your PC to someone else. This someone else (let’s call them a bad guy) can then do whatever they want. Maybe it’s using your PC resource to attack someone else (maybe someone else in your company or a total stranger on the other side of the planet). Maybe it’s recording your bank details or maybe it’s to show lots of pop up adverts that said bad guy gets paid on. The world is their oyster.
Here is an example of a spam email.
It all looks legit, comes form ba.com, has a valid flight number and indeed I was flying to New York in the near future. I nearly clicked on it. Ok it wasn’t on the 30th and it wasn’t with BA but I do tend to usually fly with BA and in the moment I was a little confused. “Maybe I booked something wrong. I really should click to check it out and sort this out as quick as possible”. Luckily I remembered the advice that I am always giving out to others (easy to give advice, hard to take it right?) and hovered my mouse over the link.
Hmmm – pretty sure BA.com isn’t the same as thierryprtuisot.org! This was clearly a phishing attack, designed to make me click on that link. Would my anti malware and firewall software detect it and stop it? Maybe, maybe not but best not to take the chance.
One of the golden rules in identify phishing attacks is to hover over a link and see if it goes to where it says it does. However, sometimes legitimate emails don’t – take a look at the email below.
This is a legitimate email, even though it fails the “mouse hover” test. Company’s often use marketing agencies to send out promotions. Mkto is a marketing company, which I presume ManageEngine uses. How do I know this? Because I did the same “mouse hover” test and then googled mkto. Well, just to be safe I didn’t click the link, I went to a search engine and typed in “ManageEngine free trial” and went to the website that way, to safely find the information. The bonus is the marketing company wont get paid for me clicking on the link. Hurray!
Here are my 2 steps to help withstand phishing attacks
- do the “mouse hover” test
- don’t click on a link, open your browser and search for the information in a search engine
(And step 1.5 is make sure you don’t have any toolbars installed in your browser, these nasty things can redirect you to bad sites!)