Cybersecurity Blog

8 tips to detect malicious emails

With Black Friday, Christmas gifts and prospective online purchases around the corner, Internet users will find themselves particularly exposed to phishing emails, since hackers also make the most of the seasonal shopping spree.

While email inboxes fill with attractive special offers, order confirmations, shipping notifications, etc., hackers take advantage of the large number of messages to send emails in a similar vein and try to entice recipients to click on malicious links. As IT security specialists, we see this happening all the time.

The good news is that it is possible to deflect such attacks. The following eight tips will help you achieve this. At the end of this post, you will also find a quiz to test how well you can detect phishing emails!

  1. Assess the context.
    Is the message plausible?

    That is the first question you should ask yourself. Are you waiting for this message? Did you make that order you got a confirmation for? What does the email look like (layout, spelling)? Does it seem credible? Isn't the offer too good to be true?

  2. They tell you it's urgent?
    Then it is urgent to wait!

    The number one strategy of an effective hacker is to make sure his target takes no time to think. He will therefore set short deadlines to try and trigger immediate action. Whenever you get an email urging you to act quickly, this is where you should slow things down and take your time to calmly analyse the message.

  3. Check who is sending the message.
    A hacker can easily fake a sender's address

    A legitimate-looking sender's address is NEVER proof that a message is legit. On the other hand, if you see that the sender is fake, you can be sure that the message is fraudulent.

  4. Look for the real internet links in the message.
    Hackers hide them to deceive the recipients.

    To see the details of a link in a email, just hover over it with your mouse (without clicking) so that the information behind it is displayed. This is the only way to view all the revealing clues. However, the size of the screen makes these checks more difficult to perform from a mobile phone. If in any doubt, we recommend you take time to analyse the message in detail from a computer.

  5. Inspect the links.
    They sometimes look complex and hackers use this to fool their targets

    At this point, we need to go into some more details. An Internet link consists of different elements which are separated by dots. The most important are the domain name (example: "google") and the extension (example:".com") because they disclose the true identity of a site. A link is to be read from right to left. Start by looking for the extension (.com,.ch,.org, etc). The domain name is located just to the left of the extension, between two dots.
    Examples:
    https:// black-friday.google.com -> the domain is google.com and the link will take you there. https:// google.black-friday.ch -> the domain is black-friday.ch and the links will take you there.
    It is very important to identify the domain before clicking on a link. This makes it possible to anticipate where it will take you, to a reliable or a potentially malicious site.

  6. Be careful with the spelling of site names.
    Hackers use optical tricks.

    One trick widely used by hackers is to slightly modify the spelling of a known site name. These changes are difficult to see at a glance.
    Examples: credit-suissse.ch, cooop.ch, gooogle.com.
    Detecting these requires a lot of attention.

  7. Think about the extension!
    A hacker can deceive us by using a legitimate domain name with another extension

    Example: shop.com and shop.co are very similar but may have wholly different owners (and objectives).

  8. Beware of short links!
    An Internet link is sometimes run through a link shortener (such as bit.ly, youtu.be, etc.) to make it easier to handle. While this operation makes the link more compact, it also hides its true identity. It is impossible to tell straight away if such a link is legitimate. And hackers, of course, take advantage of this.
    Example: once shortened, the link http:// www.malicious-site-seeking-to-steal-your-password.com becomes https:// bit.ly/34vn0x4

Tip: if you wish to find out what's hiding behind a shortcut link, you can copy and paste it on http://checkshorturl.com/ which will "decode" it back to its original format.

That's all! You now have some handy tools to resist Christmas hackers. These tips will save you a lot of unpleasant surprises in the coming weeks - and during the rest of the year too!

Everything clear? Now it's your move!

RNothing beats a little practice.

Test yourself and take our quiz: Can you recognize malicious emails?

Feel free to share this post with friends and family to help them protect themselves better!

The Navixia Team wishes you a safe and happy holiday season.

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