Spam Versus Phishing Emails

Mon 20th Mar 2023 | Cyber Security, IT Outsourcing

Most of us are aware that while the internet has many benefits, there will always be bad faith actors who act maliciously through you, your employees or your colleagues.

Emails are one of the main danger points that can allow such activity to pose a very real risk to your company or organisation. Just a misguided click on a link within an email could cause lots of damage. But, some methods are more dangerous than others.

Here we will discuss the difference between spam emails and phishing emails, along with ways to protect your business from them.

What is a Spam Email?

Spam email, often known as ‘junk mail’ is a common type of email that everyone has encountered (unless you are very lucky or don’t have an email account).

This type of email is a form of mass marketing a product or service that may or may not (in and of itself) be legitimate. Those sending spam obtain their victims’ email addresses from a wide range of sources and usually don’t care about the annoyance caused.

Commonly, you’ll see spam emails advertising adult services, gambling sites etc. and are often scams. Most modern email clients such as Microsoft Outlook can easily identify spam and automatically file these away in a spam folder. (Now and then it is worth checking your spam folder to ensure no legitimate emails have been mistakenly grabbed!).

Typically, spam is merely unwanted or unasked-for emails, and while annoying, there’s nothing inherently malicious about an email pushing an offer or a product.

Phishing emails are much more malicious…

What is a Phishing Email?

Phishing emails are intended to deceive the recipient into giving access to an account or service.

Unlike spam, these emails are intended to fool unsuspecting victims into providing sensitive information such as passwords, bank details, or even access to business systems and networks. Phishing scams may look legitimate at first glance, and are designed to trigger the recipient to respond. They often say something like “Your account has withdrawn £1398.90” and will look similar to an email from a bank. These will then guide you towards an action, e.g. directing you to a fake login portal in an attempt to capture your bank login details.

Often, with a bit of thought, these emails can be seen for what they are, however, people can fall victim if the message and the timing come together in a weak moment.

Protecting Your Business

There are various steps that you can take to protect your business from spam and (more importantly) phishing attacks.

1. Recognise the Signs of a Phishing Attack

Phishing emails often have a number of telltale signs that people should be aware of:

  • Check the email domain. For example, if you get an email from admin@L(l), check their official website to see what email addresses they actually use.
  • The emails will often visually look wrong too. The layout may be slightly different to a normal piece of comms from said company. Trust your instincts and if something seems off, it usually is.
  • Check for misspelled words and especially URLs that don’t look quite right. These types of mistakes are a big red flag!
  • Does the language used in the email look consistent with what would usually be sent by the company trying to contact you? Are they being pushy or trying extra hard to get you to perform an action (such as clicking on a link or opening an attachment). Again, go with your instinct!

2. Provide Company-Wide Training

Even if you know what to look out for, others in your company or organisation might not.

  • Ensure your colleagues or employees are trained on phishing and cybersecurity.
  • Create company-wide rules or update policies with information about risk factors such as external links and online forms.
  • Limit the ability of individuals to download files from unauthorised sources.
  • Let people know that they can ask questions (and who they should ask), or get advice about suspicious emails.

3. Employ System-Wide Measures

Even with training and guidance, humans make mistakes – like clicking a link by accident. It is important to ensure that systems are in place for this type of mishap!

  • Employ email security solutions that block phishing emails before they reach someone’s inbox.
  • Implement good system-wide antivirus software and keep it up-to-date.
  • Back up key files and data regularly in case you need to restore them.
  • Ensure that password best-practice is enforced.

Need a Hand?

Are you looking to implement securities and strengthen your company’s vulnerability against social engineering attacks? Get in touch with us today! Our experts are here to help, and can easily make sure that your company has every base covered.

If you would like help strengthening your company’s security, Trinity Managed Services can help your business with our IT security and compliance solutions. Contact us today to find out more!

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