cft

Five Simple Ways to Identify Malicious Email

Cybercriminals still use email as the preferred channel to deliver their initial payload. Why? Because, the number of emails sent & received daily is more than 280 billion world wide. People use email, and inbox is a direct way to their personal lives.


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Waheed Iqbal

2 years ago | 2 min read

Cybercriminals still use email as the preferred channel to deliver their initial payload. Why? Because, the number of emails sent & received daily is more than 280 billion world wide. People use email, and inbox is a direct way to their personal lives.

Most of the mail received daily is spam, which is automatically separated from priority email by our mailing software. Things have definitely improved in terms of spam filtering but, cybercriminals always find innovative ways around the automated filter system.

And, in case of spear phishing, cybercriminals use advanced social engineering techniques to effectively by pass filtering systems & trick users into downloading unwanted malicious software.

For a safer email experience, you do not need cybersecurity experts or premium anti-virus software. Suspicious email can easily be detected once you know some of the basic traits of a malicious email. Following are five simple ways you can detect a malicious email.

Look for links & attachments

When analyzing malicious email, the first thing you need to look for is links and attachments. Cybercriminals usually deliver malicious code via attachments. They also use external links to lure users into downloading harmful code.

If the suspicious email contains links or attachments, you should act with extreme caution. Never click on links or attachments unless the email you received is from a 100% trusted source.

Double check sender address

This is the most important part in ensuring if the suspicious email is safe or not. Always check the sender email address. It is always best to spam unknown senders.

Check sender details by clicking on the small down arrow icon under the sender address in gmail.

Look at sender details for suspicious email addresses and domain names. In case of spear phishing, attackers can also send from an address that looks similar to a person’s email you frequently communicate with. Therefore, it is very important to double check the sender address. And always make sure it is from a trusted person.

Look for relevance & context

Email that seems completely irrelevant is either spam or malicious. Never engage with irrelevant email received from unknown & strange addresses.

Example of irrelevant spam email.

Also look for context, email that doesn’t match your regular correspondence or communication patterns could be harmful. You must regularly analyze your inbox and clear any suspicious mail.

Never download misplaced attachments

Always deal your email with caution. Email attachments are always the first step in email based attack vectors. Even for trusted addresses never click on misplaced attachments.

Often we find email attachments that are misplaced or out of context. In these scenarios, it is best to ask the sender about the attached material.

In advanced targeted attacks, cybercriminals can send email that seem to be originated from a trusted person in your contacts. Therefore, it is always safe to ask the person via other means of communication like WhatsApp or txt message and inquire about the misplaced attachment.

Analyze email content

Content can tell a lot about the intent and purpose of an email. From irregular formatting to grammar errors, you can tell a lot about the writer just by analyzing the text. So, you can always read the email text to check if something is fishy.

A malicious email could be disguised as a product offer or a deal on your favorite brand. In this scenario, a call to action button could lead you to a harmful link.

Always read email text for irregularities, analyze for safety & purpose. Stick to these simple rules for a safer & confident email experience.

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Created by

Waheed Iqbal

Marketing professional with a keen interest in data backed UI/UX, SEO and Performance Analysis.


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