Do you know what to look for to determine if an email is “suspicious”?  Hackers have become very clever by creating emails that look legitimate, especially at a quick glance.  Unfortunately, you could make one wrong click in an email and expose your entire network to a serious breach.

KnowBe4 has assembled an excellent summary of specific clues to look for in an email you may think looks suspicious.  Feel free to download the graphic.

You can avoid some of the risk by simply reading emails more carefully, as you’ll see in this checklist of “risk clues” in each of the different email fields:

TO:

  • I was cc’d on an email sent to one or more people, but I don’t personally know the other people it was sent to.
  • I received an email that was also sent to an unusual mix of people. For instance a seemingly random group of people at your organization whose last names start with the same letter, or a whole list of unrelated addresses.

FROM:

  • I don’t recognize the sender’s email address as someone I ordinarily communicate with.
  • This email is from someone outside my organization and it’s not related to my job responsibilities.
  • This email was sent from someone inside the organization or from a customer, vendor, or partner and is very unusual or out of character.
  • Is the sender’s email address from a suspicious domain? (like micorsoft-support.om)
  • I don’t know the sender personally and they were not vouched for by someone I trust.
  • I don’t have a business relationship nor any past communications with the sender.
  • This is an unexpected or unusual email with an embedded hyperlink or an attachment from someone I hadn’t communicated with recently.

DATE:

  • Did I receive an email that I normally would get during regular business hours, but it was sent at an unusual time like 3 a.m.?

SUBJECT:

  • Did I get an email with a subject line that is irrelevant or does not match the content?
  • Is the email message a reply to something I never sent or requested?

ATTACHMENTS:

  • The sender included an email attachment that I was not expecting or that makes no sense in relation to the email message. (This sender doesn’t ordinarily send me these types of attachment(s).)
  • I see an attachment with a possibly dangerous file type. The only file type that is always safe to click on is a .TXT file.)

CONTENT:

  • Is the sender asking me to click on a link or open an attachment to avoid a negative consequence, or to gain something of value?
  • Is the email out of the ordinary, or does it have bad grammar or spelling errors?
  • Is the sender asking me to click a link or open up an attachment that seems odd or illogical?
  • Do I have an uncomfortable gut feeling about the sender’s request to open an attachment or click a link?
  • Is the email asking me to look at a compromising or embarrassing picture of myself or someone I know?

HYPERLINKS:

  • I hover my mouse over a hyperlink that’s displayed in the email message, but the link to address is for a different web site. (This is a big red flag.)
  • I received an email that only has long hyperlinks with no further information and the rest of the email is completely blank.
  • I received an email with a hyperlink that is a misspelling of a known web site. For instance, www.bankofarnerica.com – the “m” is really two characters – “r & n”).

Be vigilant with your emails to help keep your network safe.  Ask your IT provider to offer training to your team so that everyone can recognize the clues and help avoid making that one wrong click.