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How to Protect Yourself From Phishing and Spam Emails

Oct 8, 2020 9:00:00 AM

By now, everyone knows not to send a wire transfer to the “Nigerian Prince” who is attempting to get home. That once-popular scam has become one of the largest running jokes in the cybersecurity realm, and serves as a textbook example for what phishing truly is. While the original plot is rarely used, the tactics and methods have continued to grow and develop into sophisticated ones. These ploys have net cyber criminals nearly $26 billion in the last five years alone. Below, we’ll take an in-depth look at what you can do to guard yourself, and your business from malicious attempts to steal your information.

Don't Take the Bait

Phishing is defined as an attempt to retrieve personal information such as a password or credit card number through an email design to look like it’s from a reputable source. Oftentimes, these emails are designed to imitate those from popular social networks, financial institutions, government agencies, e-commerce companies, etc.

These attempts are designed to get you to act quickly and without thinking. Oftentimes, they will state that your account has been compromised by a third party, your order wasn’t filled correctly, there has been unauthorized spending from your account, or any other seemingly urgent matter. Always remember; if in doubt, throw it out!

Another key point is to remember that phishing and malicious attempts to steal your personal data are not limited to just email. While that may be the most common method, we still see attempts like these across social media platforms, and sometimes, as advertisements online.

Tips to Protect Yourself

  • Never give up personal information via email, and never respond to these solicitations. If you find yourself responding, you are likely to be targeted repeatedly. 
  • Investigate the sender’s email and links. Many times, the sender will use an email address that looks similar to the company or group they are trying to imitate, but it won't look quite right. The links they use will throw up red flags, as well. A popular tactic here is to use common misspellings of the websites, changing the domain entirely (i.e. using .net instead of .com) or replacing characters with similar looking numbers or letters.
  • If you don’t want to ignore the email because you feel as if it could be valid, reach out to the company directly. Navigate your way to the company's website or find their contact information outside of the suspicious email, then ask them to verify the information in the email. 
  • Keep everything up-to-date on your hardware and software. Try to visit only trustworthy websites, and maintain a clean inbox. 
  • Keep strong, random passwords stored in a safe location. Keep work and personal account separated with different passwords. Further, enable two-factor authentication wherever possible. This requires a multi-step login on new devices that could be the difference in a multi-million dollar cyber heist.

If You Are the Victim

  • Act quickly and decisively to mitigate your losses. The average cost of a phishing attack on a mid-sized company is $1.6 million. Realize that you are not alone, and that swift actions are required. Try to provide as accurate of information as possible.
  • Report what happened to the appropriate people within your organization or company. Make sure you have a plan in place to help prevent losses.
  • Contact financial institutions immediately to suspend the affected accounts. The sooner you can get to this step, the better. Keep a close eye on all accounts for any new or unauthorized charges.
  • File reports with the Federal Trade Commission, the Internet Crime Complaint Center, and your local police department.
  • Change passwords to the accounts directly affected, and potentially to other major sites that have access to sensitive information if your login credentials have been compromised.
  • While you may be feeling fearful or embarrassed, realize that this is a common occurrence and do your best to move through the above steps effectively, as time plays a critical role in these attempts.

These are just some of the common practices that you should be applying to your day to day routine. Check out AvantGuard for more information on how you can keep yourself, and your business, secured!

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