How Ransomware Works
Imagine for a second the surprise you would have if you tried to log into your computer and you were presented with a message telling you that your files have been encrypted and that you need to pay in Bitcoin before the clock runs out or you will lose those files forever. Then you noticed the clock clicking down. Would you panic? You probably would. That is ransomware, a particularly ugly malware that could cost you everything.
How Phishing Works
Do you ever get emails that seem to come in randomly from the government, your bank, or your insurance company? Do they want you to act now and provide links or attachments to make that possible? The truth is most professional organizations that you depend on will never want you using email to do anything other than to verify your identity. That means that the emails you get that say you must act now to avoid going to jail for owing money are as fraudulent as they seem.
These are phishing messages. They can come in through email, social media, or via SMS or phone call. Unfortunately for the modern user, they are constant, often sophisticated, and can be especially problematic if handled improperly.
Phishing + Ransomware = Major Trouble
Since today’s hackers can’t just hack their way into an account, they use social engineering tactics to do so. If they can expose their fraudulent message to someone that is less than vigilant, they may gain access to a computer (or worse yet, a computing network), and then deploy their ransomware payload. Not a good situation for any individual; and a major problem for any business. Therefore, it is essential that your staff understands phishing tactics and can spot fraudulent emails and messages when they come in. Let’s take a look at some telltale signs that you are dealing with a phishing message.
Phishing tactics are a lot more sophisticated than they were even a few short years ago, but they can’t do anything for the one variable that matters: legitimacy. Here are a few ways you can tell that you are dealing with a phishing attack.
- The details in the message are suspect – Many people don’t pay much attention to the email address an email is sent from, or if a word here or there is misspelled. This is how phishing attacks get you. If you receive a message that has spelling or grammatical errors that you wouldn’t find in professional correspondence, you probably are dealing with a scam. You can also look at the email address itself or best yet, mouse over any links found in the text of the email. If it seems fishy, it’s probably phishing. Don’t click on it.
- The tone is desperate – One telltale sign that you are dealing with a phishing attack is that the message written to you seems urgent. No reputable financial institution or government entity is going to demand immediate action from an email.
- There’s a link or an attachment – Using phishing to deploy ransomware (or any kind of malware), you will typically see an attachment or be asked to follow links in the message. If you have any question of the validity of the message, don’t click on a link or open an attachment.
Here are a few steps we always recommend to help avoid phishing messages:
- Carefully hover (don’t click!) over links and see if they go to a legitimate URL. If the email is from PayPal, a link should lead back to paypal.com or accounts.paypal.com. If there is anything strange between ‘paypal’ and the ‘.com’ then something is suspicious. There should also be a forward slash (/) after the .com. If the URL was something like paypal.com.mailru382.co/something, then you are being spoofed. Everyone handles their domains a little differently, but use this as a general rule of thumb:
- paypal.com – Safe
- paypal.com/activatecard – Safe
- business.paypal.com – Safe
- business.paypal.com/retail – Safe
- paypal.com.activatecard.net – Suspicious! (notice the dot immediately after Paypal’s domain name)
- paypal.com.activatecard.net/secure – Suspicious!
- paypal.com/activatecard/tinyurl.com/retail – Suspicious! Don’t trust dots after the domain!
- Check the email in the header. An email from Amazon wouldn’t come in as firstname.lastname@example.org. Do a quick Google search for the email address to see if it is legitimate.
- Always be careful opening attachments. If there is an attachment or link on the email, be extra cautious.
- Be skeptical of password alerts. If the email mentions passwords, such as “your password has been stolen,” be suspicious.
Cybersecurity is a constant process. If you would like help getting your staff trained or if you would like some information about other security tools you can use to keep your infrastructure and data safe, call the IT professionals at Aspire today at (469) 272-0777.