Tech Guides (IT Governance)

Preventing, Identifying, & Reporting Email Threats

Updated Oct 08, 2021

Emailing is a necessity for most of us. With all the risks involved in owning and using an email account, here are some ways to keep yourself safe from email attacks.


Tips for staying safe from email attacks

If an email asks directly for information such as a Social Security number, credit card number, or bank account numbers, it should be immediately disregarded and reported by following the instructions in the article Reporting Phishing & Junk Emails. Legitimate websites will never attempt to collect this kind of information via email.

If you suspect you have been victimized by an email threat, immediately change your account passwords.

Do:

  • Use antivirus protection and a firewall. 
  • Increase your browser security settings. 
  • Get anti-spyware software protection. 
  • Avoid questionable websites. 
  • Avoid free software and file-sharing applications. 
  • Only download software from sites you trust
  • Avoid links that do not open to the stated destination; hover over links to verify that the underling hyperlink is known and valid. 
  • Report suspicious emails by following the instructions in the article Reporting Phishing & Junk Emails.

Don't:

  • Respond to any unsolicited requests for information. 
  • Download anything illegally. Many illegal downloads install malware on your computer. 
  • Give out login credentials to anyone. 
  • Use the same password for all your accounts. 
  • Open an email if you do not recognize the sender.

Common email threats

There are many ways you can be deceived using email. Here are some ways that criminals attempt to deceive you and how you can avoid them.

To report suspicious emails, follow the instructions in the article Reporting Phishing & Junk Emails.

Phishing

  • An email requesting sensitive information while impersonating trustworthy organizations 
  • Compromises devices and systems when users open attachments or click links in the emails 
  • Can be avoided by hovering over links embedded in emails to verify their authenticity  
  • Can be avoided by using caution with suspicious attachments  
  • Can be avoided by always considering the source of an email before opening it  

For more tips on how to spot Phishing emails, see the article Detecting Phishing.

Hoaxes

  • Try to convince a user to perform an action by implying their action will be rewarded  
  • Can be avoided by asking yourself whether the offer is too good to be true

Scams

  • Involve some degree of fear or intimidation 
  • Often appeal to a user’s greed 
  • Offer something out of proportion to what they are asking 
  • Can be more dangerous than hoaxes because they usually request money from the victim  
  • Can be avoided by asking yourself whether the offer is too good to be true

Spoofs

  • An email that fraudulently appears to be from another individual’s email 
  • Usually sent to the “sender’s” contact list to raise the likelihood that recipients will open the email 
  • Can be avoided by asking yourself, “Is this email in line with the sender’s character?” and ignoring the email if the answer is no 

Spam

  • Unwanted emails sent with the intent of advertising or getting victims to click a link  
  • A nuisance at best, and promotes illegal products/activities or conceals malware at worst
  • Can be avoided by hovering over links embedded in emails to verify their authenticity 

Reporting spam from Outlook

Once you have identified a threatening or questionable email, you can report it through Outlook by following the instructions in the article Reporting Phishing & Junk Emails.


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