Finance and Technology

Malware Attacks & How to Protect Yourself – Part 1

Dec 2021 | By Greg Gazin

A 4-Part Series on Identifying and Protecting Yourself from Malware

According to Wikipedia, Malware is any software that is intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server, client or computer network. A range of antivirus software, firewalls and other strategies are used to help protect against the introduction of malware, to help detect it if it is already present, and to recover from malware- associated malicious activity and attacks

Friends don’t send friends phishing emails

Family and friends are more likely to connect with you via text or your favorite social platform, but many still rely on good old fashioned email.

Your inbox likely receives a daily dose of jokes, recipes and photos from those you know well. None of these appear to be unusual, unless, it’s a fake. What if clicking on it amounts to a cyber-attack with scammers trying to steal your private information, amongst other things?

It’s easy to identify SPAM or junk email, especially if you receive ones that say you’ve inherited millions, along with ads for Viagra at rock-bottom prices. It’s those phishing emails that are masquerading as friendly content that you need to be concerned about.

Tell-tale signs that an email may be fake

A fake will likely look like it’s from someone recognizable. However, if you hover your cursor, using your mouse or trackpad (don’t click on it), over the name, the email address should pop up. If it shows something obscure, don’t open it.

Another clue is if there’s nothing in the subject line. This may not be unusual, but together with a questionable email address, it might be a pattern.

A third sign is if your email is part of a list of recipients. Their names, and possibly the email addresses. may appear to be legitimate, but, here, you might also notice a pattern. It might just be first names listed in alphabetical order. Or it might be a series of recipients that are a patterned variation of your name, your email address or your domain. As an example, my name is Greg Gazin, but it might show Gant, Gauze, Gazing, Gazelle, Gazing or Gary. It might also be a series of emails that are all going to the same domain like @yahoo or @gmail. I think you get the idea.

More red flags

If there is little content in the email, except for maybe a link to a domain that you are not familiar with, do not open.

The signature line might mirror exactly the same name in the “To:” field. For example, the email was sent to Smith, John E. You would expect the signature line to say John or John Smith, but it repeats “Smith, John E.”

If you’re getting a whack of emails from friends with no subject line and nothing more than a link and a signature, chances are it’s a fake and you should mark it as spam and delete it immediately. If you think that they may be legitimate, start a brand-new message, type the email address in manually, or select it from your address book, and ask the recipient if they, in fact, sent it to you. Under no circumstances should you reply to the incoming message. If you think that their email may have been compromised, send them a note via text or through another source

Skype and Messenger

Phishing can also happen on other platforms like Skype, Facebook Messenger and even simple text messages. Often, it’s a link, an image or a video that’s been dropped in your window without any additional information. Phishing text messages often appear to come from your bank. Again, think twice before clicking on it. It’s best to check with the source to see if they’ve sent it. If the message is from someone you haven’t heard from in a long time, be wary.

Be alert, and keep your virus and other security protections up to date.