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    How to Recognize SPAM and Click-Baiting | Email Security and Beyond

    By: Clay Ostlund
    February 16, 2015

    email_security_1Security threats are lurking everywhere you go online today. As security protocols advance and software programs come out with increasingly stringent measures to protect users, spammers and hackers are getting creative in an effort to gain access to information that does not belong to them. The best tool any user can have is knowledge. The first place many hackers look to infiltrate is the one place many people overlook: email.

    Hackers use a variety of tools to try and infiltrate email accounts because they offer a veritable treasure trove of information that can be used for malicious purposes. Your email provider, whether it is Google, Microsoft Exchange or Yahoo, works hard to filter out emails that pose a threat to your Internet security, but their measures are not perfect. You need to be proactive in order to ensure you are protected, even when email filters fail.

    What is Click-Baiting?

    Click-baiting is a malicious effort on the part of hackers to simply get you to click on a link that will then provide them access to your system.

    A typical click-baiting email may arrive in your inbox in one of two fashions:

    • Major news: Hackers use major news headlines as the subject for emails that are sent to your inbox. The goal is to get you to open the email and click on a link. The link directs you to malicious content on a third-party site. In many cases, the link directs you to update your video player through a download. Instead of downloading a new video player, a malicious application is downloaded and your computer is compromised.

    • Online Shopping: Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail all utilize filters to block SPAM emails from arriving in your inbox, but hackers get around this with email subject lines starting with "Order Number." Because ordering online is so common, typical SPAM filters do not block these emails. If you open the email and view the attachment, you’ve just downloaded malicious content on your device.

    Click-baiting scams are also employed through social media. Phony accounts post breaking news or unbelievable offers with a link for readers to click on. Similar to the major news subject line that lands in your inbox, the link takes you to a third-party site that could compromise your computer.

    Why Does Click-Baiting Work for Spammers?

    The simple answer to this question is that people are curious by nature. When there is major breaking news, we want to know more about it. When we receive an email with an order number in the subject line, we wonder "what did I buy?" Spammers take advantage of our curiosity by disguising malicious content as credible information. We click on a link or download a receipt/voucher from an email, and before we know it our information is at risk.

    Hackers use your email inbox to access not just your personal information, but also build a bigger target base. When they access your inbox they can see your full contact list. This increases the number of targets they can use their click-baiting scheme against. Email security is a must, but so is vigilance.

    Email Security through Vigilance

    The best thing you can do to ensure email security, protect your information and even protect your contacts, is remain vigilant. There are a number of tips you can follow to avoid falling prey to hackers and their malicious attacks. The following are simple tips to keep in mind:

    • Avoid the outlandish: Promotions that make use of terms such as "exclusive," "shocking" and "sensational" are almost always too good to be true. If something sounds outlandish, chances are it is dangerous.

    • Hover before clicking: Before you click on any link, hover over it with your mouse. This will display the true destination the link takes you to. If the site is unfamiliar, do not click on it. If you are interested in learning more, be sure to use a new window to conduct a search for the story rather than clicking on the link.
    • Don’t share: Social media encourages us to share information, resulting in a gold mine for hackers. When you fall for malicious content and then share it, unknowingly, with your friends, you are doing the hackers work for them.

    There are a number of common techniques that hackers use to try and access your personal information. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends avoiding suspicious websites with information about the following celebrities:

    1. Jimmy Kimmel (comedian, actor, talk show host)
    2. Armin van Buuren (Dutch DJ and music producer)
    3. Ciara (singer-songwriter, dancer, Grammy winner)
    4. Flo Rida (rapper, People’s Choice award winner)
    5. Bruce Springsteen (rock legend, 20 Grammys, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)
    6. Blake Shelton (country singer, judge on The Voice, husband of Miranda Lambert)
    7. Britney Spears (pop singer, former child actor)
    8. Jon Bon Jovi (singer-songwriter, philanthropist)
    9. Chelsea Handler (comedian, writer, talk show host)
    10. Christina Aguilera (pop singer, actress, Grammy winner)

    The BBB has identified these celebrities as the most dangerous celebrities online. Avoid links, videos, emails and social media shares involving these individuals. Knowledge is power. Your email security can be improved dramatically with a little bit of vigilance.

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    Topics: Email, Security, Network Security, avoid
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