Today, technology is highly advanced and able to perform a myriad of tasks. However, it cannot keep out every suspicious attempt to get our data. What’s more is that it cannot always account for human error.
This is especially true when it comes to phishing, the specific attempts to get us to reveal our information and create a gateway for other more dangerous components such as malware and ransomware. Phishing is expected to increase, as are the influx of suspicious links in our inboxes.
Keep in mind these helpful hints in order to curb these targeting trends:
Examine the source
Suspicious links are often delivered via email and even over social media and messaging. Before opening an email or clicking on a link, you may want to consider how well you know the sender. If you’ve never seen the display name or domain name before, that could be a red flag. Even if you do know the sender, that’s not necessarily a guarantee of safety. If someone you know has clicked on a suspicious link before or has been a victim of a data breach, phishing attempt, malware or similar attack in the past, you might not have prior knowledge of this. Phishers have begun to send out suspicious links via infected channels.
Always check the header and display names before opening suspicious emails. Don’t hesitate to check with the sender (if it’s someone you know) to see if they meant to send a link.
Examine the Etiquette
Are there contact details provided in the email or message if it’s from an unknown source? Does the message have a signature? Be sure to check the quality of communication and to see if it’s meant to generate a conversation as opposed to a one-way prompt for information.
Thoroughly scan the missive for any sketchy details such as poor writing quality or frequent errors in words that are common tells for a phishing attempt. Although this is changing, bad grammar and spelling in suspicious messages are often signs of cyberattacks. Additionally, these emails with suspicious links may try to pass as some sort of deal. Whether it’s a free trip on vacation or ultimate (and unusual) deal online, odd offers are another type of clickbait scams.
Abstain from the attachments
Occasionally, suspicious link messages will feature attachments, or even images that appear to be attachments. If you did not anticipate receiving attachments or are questioning the source of the message, avoid opening or clicking on the file or image. Some email programs are set up to give you a preview what these attachments so you can see what it would look like by placing your cursor over it without actually having to follow the link.
(Il)legitimating a link
Let’s say you thought a link was from an authentic source and clicked on it to see what it was about, how could you tell if it was a real deal or a red herring? Signs to look at include the expected page result, credential requests and lack of webpage security. If the link brought you to a completely different type of website than you originally anticipated, this could be a sign of an attempted cyberattack. If the site asks for a login or for some type of payment info, this is another suspicious quality, especially if the site does not feature clearly noted webpage security with a padlock icon in the web address bar. An unsecure page could easily mean that the source of the link is out to steal your data and info.