Spam comprises more than half of all emails sent. Although it’s a number that’s substantially lower than it was a few years ago, junk email continues to cost the global economy billions of dollars every year in lost productivity. Moreover, many spam emails are more than just an annoyance, they are a favorite delivery method for malicious software and links. Scammers also send out spam en masse as part of wide-reaching social engineering attacks.
It’s therefore imperative that you know these seven steps to protecting yourself from the omnipresent threat of spam:
1. Always verify the sender’s address
The easiest and most effective way to protect yourself from malicious emails is to verify the sender’s address. It is very easy for spammers to spoof a display name in the From field, making it so that an email seems to be from a legitimate organization when it is actually from a bad actor. You can check the sender’s email address by hovering over the From field. Also, look for telltale signs of a malicious email address, such as a familiar but misspelled brand or domain name.
2. Never open unsolicited attachments
Despite there being faster and more secure methods, email is still a common way to exchange files, particularly common document formats like Microsoft Word and PDF. Some attachments can contain malware though. A Microsoft Word or Excel document, for example, could be embedded with malicious code designed to steal information. Always err on the side of caution, and never download an attachment you weren’t expecting.
3. Be wary of malicious links in email
Spam emails almost invariably instill a sense of urgency or excitement to encourage recipients to click on links. These links often lead to websites peddling malicious software or those with online surveys designed to steal personal information. While regular marketing mail does sometimes get caught by spam filters, remember that no legitimate organization will ever send spam email. If in doubt, don’t click.
4. Use web-based contact forms
To safeguard your business and employees from spam email, you should always avoid displaying your email on public forums and any other websites that are exposed to search engines. While email addresses obviously aren’t confidential, it’s important to remember that spam bots routinely scrape the internet to add new addresses to spam mailing lists. Instead, use contact forms on your website, and use a CAPTCHA to verify that the people contacting you are actually people.
5. Avoid sending confidential data by email
Many people assume that email is a secure channel, especially if they have a firewall in place and antivirus software running in the background. However, without full end-to-end encryption, emails can be intercepted and redirected.
Even with encryption, emails may be forwarded by their recipient to a malicious third party, especially if the recipient’s account has been hacked. That’s why you should never send highly confidential information, such as payment details or login credentials, by email. Plus, it’s important to remember that no legitimate organization will ever ask you to do so.
6. Train employees to recognize the risks
The overwhelming majority of social engineering attacks arrive through spam email. The most dangerous ones, which are targeted toward specific victims, often make it past spam filters too. Chances are, everyone in your organization uses email, which is why fighting against the rising tide of phishing scams is everyone’s responsibility. Always train your staff to recognize the risks and the common characteristics of spam email.
7. Invest in enterprise-grade spam filtering
At best, spam emails are filled with useless content and promotions no one’s interested in. At worst, they post a serious threat to the security of your data. While the standard spam filters, such as those provided by public services like Gmail and Microsoft Outlook, are adequate for consumer needs, they don’t offer nearly the same power and functionality as business-grade spam filters. These more sophisticated solutions offer advanced threat detection and additional features like data loss prevention (DLP) and rule-based monitoring to detect potential data leaks or policy violations.
Kortek Solutions offers email and spam protection tools to help boost productivity and keep your business safe. Contact us today to find out more.