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How to Identify a Phishing Attack?

January 6th, 2022 by William Wentowski

Stylized depiction of a phishing attack hooking a user's login credentials

Did you know that 96 percent of phishing attacks are carried via email? The other three percent are carried through phone or malicious websites. According to a research study, one in every 4,200 emails is phishing emails.

Moreover, a report by iC3 shows that in 2020 there were 241,342 victims of phishing emails. The loss incurred by victims due to phishing or smishing emails was approximately $54,241,075. That's huge! Phishing emails have increased over three years. In 2019, the victim count for phishing emails was 114,702, and in 2018 it was 26,379.

As this cyber threat continues to linger, you must develop a solid understanding of how to detect a phishing email and avoid becoming a victim. Read on to learn the best ways to identify a phishing attack. But before we get started, here is a quick overview of what phishing is. 

Phishing Attack—What Is It?

This is a type of cybercrime where hackers access your confidential and sensitive information by impersonating a person or an account. Cybercriminals/hackers do this by sending victims a link where they are required to insert their personal details.

The personal data you input in the link is then stolen by the hacker, which can be manipulated to enter information and logs into the company's database, resulting in a data breach and a huge financial loss.

How to Identify a Phishing Attack—Top Signs to Watch Out For

  • Email is Sent From a Public domain

    Hackers are likely to steal your confidential information by acting like a trusted authority that you are willing to share your information. Hence, they can pretend to be a bank or company trying to contact you for information or download an attachment that you weren't expecting.

    In such a situation, the best way to identify a phishing attack is to take a look at the sender's email domain. No legitimate company will send emails via a public domain like 'gmail.com'. Even if the email is flawlessly crafted with a logo and professional format that seems like it was sent from a legitimate company, don't act before confirming that the email is sent from the company's domain. Moreover, you can confirm the domain name by typing the company's name into a search engine.

    Also, make sure to look for inconsistencies in an email address, domain name, and links inside the mail. If you can spot discrepancies, avoid sharing information or downloading attachments.  

  • Email Threatens for Negative Consequences

    Phishing attacks often are sent with a sense of urgency, where users are threatened with negative consequences if they don't act fast. Hackers hope that by reading the email in haste and focusing on negative consequences, the recipient may take action fast and eventually share their personal details.

    So, if you receive such an email, don't panic. Stay calm and examine the content for inconsistencies associated with a phishing campaign, as discussed above.

  • Email is Full of Mistakes

    Legitimate companies know how to spell and write proper emails. Most companies use spell check features on their emails and apply to autocorrect or highlight features on their web browsers to ensure that their emails are error-free and look professional. Rest assured, when you receive an email from a professional source, it is likely to be free from grammatical errors.

    So the easiest way to determine a phishing email is bad grammar. If the email has spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and is poorly written, avoid it.

    A little-known fact is that hackers know how to write, but there is a purpose behind bad syntax. Their goal is to get past the spam filters. Hence the errors are not mistakes, but they are intentionally included in the design. Besides this, it allows them to weed out responses from people who aren't sufficiently gullible.

  • The Tone of the Email is Unfamiliar and Vague

    Another way to identify a phishing attack is the tone of the email. If the language isn't quite right, you should be doubtful and avoid taking the desired action. If the email is from a colleague or a bank, they will never use a generic salutation.

    For example, a bank requesting your information will never write an email with generic salutations like 'Dear accountholder' or 'Dear valued member.' If they have your account, they will refer to you by your name, such as 'Dear Scott,' and direct you to contact them via phone if any confidential information is needed.

    Hence if the message appears generic and uncharacteristic of the sender, don't respond or open the link.

Contact us to learn more about phishing attacks and measures you can take to secure yourself and your business from phishing attacks. At BTS Technologies, we are experts in cyber security. We can provide you with the best measures and tips to avoid phishing attacks.

Posted in: Cyber Security

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