Don’t take the bait: recognizing phishing emails

People who want to steal your information can be clever. There has been a dramatic increase in phishing emails over the years and it’s important to be able to spot a suspicious email that’s angling to steal your information. The most common information security breaches are due to unintended disclosures and hacking or malware, often originating from phishing emails. Currently, the higher education industry accounts for 17% of all data breaches, second only to the medical industry with 27%*.

A recent example occurred when a Canadian university was forced to pay around $20,000 in ransom after falling prey to a devastating malware attack, likely originating from a spear-phishing message. These types of messages appear to come from a trusted source and are sent to large numbers of random email addresses. Eventually, someone will take the bait. How can you spot a phishing email? Watch out for emails with these top signs:

  1. Sense of urgency and time constraint
  2. Requests to verify passwords or credit card numbers
  3. PDF attachments from businesses
  4. Poor grammar and spelling
  5. Links or email addresses that don’t look quite right

For more information on phishing, visit thePrivacy Matters website.