Have you ever received an email that was an obvious scam? Most of us receive dozens of these emails every day.

Thanks to filters designed by cybersecurity experts, many of these messages bypass our inbox and go directly to spam.

But those same safeguards motivated cybercriminals to design emails that could sneak through filters and trick unsuspecting individuals into clicking on a link or following their instructions.

These new phishing attempts and social engineering campaigns are clever, well-thought-out, and effective.

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, but this is a problem that plagues businesses year-round. Use this guide to understand the threat and how to protect your business.

What Is Phishing?

Phishing is a type of email scam that involves an email designed to look exactly like a legitimate message. Typically, the goal of the message is to either get the reader to click on a link or trick them into revealing sensitive personal information. If the phishing attempt contains a malicious link, clicking it will install malware on the device.

The email could still be a scam if there is no malicious link

In these cases, the email is designed to look like a genuine request for information – either by mimicking a trusted sender or by playing on your sense of urgency to get you to respond without thinking.

Once the cybercriminal has secured your information through an email response or by clicking the link, they can use the knowledge or sell the data.

What Is Social Engineering?

Social engineering scams operate in a similar way to phishing. However, instead of using emails, social engineering experts use other methods to trick or manipulate an unsuspecting person into revealing information. These methods can include:

  • A fake webpage
  • Malicious links sent via email, text, or other messages
  • Impersonating a celebrity or familiar figure

Again, after the person clicks the malicious link or shares information with the cybercriminal, they will use this for their own gain. Sometimes, the links contain malware, which they can use to infiltrate the device and any connected networks.

In other cases, the hackers seek information that they can sell online or use to access bank accounts, credit cards, or workplace email accounts.


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5 Common Warning Signs of Phishing and Social Engineering Scams

You can’t spot a phishing attempt or social engineering campaign if you don’t know the warning signs.

Share these 5 flags with your coworkers and avoid falling into a cybercriminal’s trap.

1. Unfamiliar greetings

If you receive an email from someone who addresses you much more formally or informally than usual, there’s a chance it could be an impersonation.

2. A sense of urgency

While legitimate business emergencies happen, social engineering and phishing attempts often create a false sense of urgency to get you to ignore other inconsistencies.

3. Uncommon file attachments

Certain file extensions, like .exe, .zip, or .scr, are frequently associated with malware.

4. Unusual requests

If your boss has never asked you about gift cards but suddenly needs you to pick up $500 worth, be wary.

5. Requests for personal information

Being asked out of the blue to “verify” personal information is a major red flag.

4 Ways You Can Keep Your Business Safe

You know the warning signs and are now staring at what looks like a suspicious email. What should you do? Here are 4 ways to stay safe and feel more confident operating online.

1. Slow down

Cybercriminals operating these scams want to create urgency. Combat that by slowing down and reading through emails and messages carefully, especially if the request or message is out of the ordinary.

2. Check before you click

Before you click a link, hover your mouse over the link to check that its destination is familiar to you. You can also click or hover over the “from” email address that sent you the message. If you see anything in the email address that’s slightly off, you can assume it’s spam.

3. Verify in person

If you’re being asked to send personal information to someone online, always call and speak to someone directly before putting it in an email.

4. Trust your gut

If something feels suspicious, it probably is. Trust your gut, and report anything unusual or unfamiliar to your IT department.

Have a Nashville Cybersecurity Expert Keep You Safe

At Tech Squared, our team is eager to support and educate your staff as you work towards a malware-free future. In fact, all of the clients we’ve worked with so far have been 100% free from malware while partnered with us.

Want to learn more about what we can offer? Book a meeting with us to discuss how we can help you achieve gap-free and secure IT today.