Today, e-mail, or electronic mail, is one of the most popular ways that businesses, organizations, and individuals communicate.  As a result, however, your e-mail is also one of the most common methods for hackers and scammers to use in order to access your computer.  It's more important today to lock down and secure your e-mail than ever.  There are a multitude of methods for scammers and cyber criminals to access your e-mail and/or spread viruses and malware via electronic transmission.

Over the years, e-mail has been able to offer a much richer application experience.  With these upgrades comes more opportunities for criminals to hide code, embed malicious links, or create a misleading e-mail.  So what are the threats that we need to look out for?

Common E-mail Scams to Watch For

Spoofing e-mail is a common practice amongst online scammers where they replicate an e-mail address that is not truly theirs.  This is a way of disguising communication from an unknown source and misleading the receiver to believe that the e-mail is legitimate and from the actual source.  Spoofing can happen on phone calls and websites as well.  The dangers of spoofed e-mails can include clicking on malicious links, sending private data to an unknown source, or lost trust amongst business partners who may respond to a spoofed e-mail.

E-mails can be spoofed by mimicking a trusted e-mail address or domain by using alternate letters or numbers to appear slightly differently than the original source e-mail.  Disguising the “From” field to appear as the exact e-mail address of a known source is another way e-mail spoofing is done as well.

Watch for misspelling, incorrect grammar, unusual sentences or phrases, or if you’re being asked to provide some information, such as passwords, or to send money to an account.  All of these examples are signs that you may be dealing with an e-mail sender who is not who they appear to be.

Phishing e-mail scams have become a popular way of tricking users into clicking links embedded within e-mails or providing credentials and other vital information to scammers by mistake.  Often times, phishing e-mails are also sent from e-mails that are spoofed.

E-mails that may look like they come from your bank, an application you use – such as Microsoft Office or Dropbox – and that ask for important information such as passwords, or financial data, are all popular methods in which cyber criminals attempt to send these scams.

Embedded Code in Spam messages are another widely used method in which hackers and cyber criminals can attempt to spread viruses or malware to your computer.  E-mails can contain hidden malicious code within attachments, images, signatures, or links.  Malicious code hidden within an e-mail can often execute simply by downloading images from within the e-mail, opening a link within the text, or even by simply opening the e-mail itself.

You can prevent accidentally loading malicious code embedded within e-mails by not downloading images from your e-mail client.  Most e-mail clients, like Outlook or Apple Mail, don't download images by default.  You can also inspect where links within an e-mail are going by hovering your mouse over the link without clicking it to identify where the destination of the link truly goes.

Keeping Your E-mails Secure

There are multiple ways to protect yourself from phishing scams, spoofing attacks, and falling victim to other e-mail scams.  Many anti-virus programs are also able to help protect your e-mail as well.  Not downloading images and attachments from within your e-mails can help prevent malicious code from running on your computer.  Implementing a secure spam filter is another way to lock down and secure your e-mail.

Natural Networks is a Managed IT services provider and offers e-mail security and spam filter services for clients.  Ask us about our Cybersecurity Awareness Program which educates employees about spear phishing and helps them identify phishing scams, malware, and other e-mail attacks so that you can transform your weakest links into your strongest defenses.  If you’re interested in learning more about securing your e-mail, contact us today!