Emails today have become an integral part of our day-to-day life and this has made it a child’s play for spammers to lure people into opening fraudulent emails and attachments. Thus, while you are using emails for your everyday personal or official use, it is important to realize that the tech-savvy spammers can easily hack their way to your personal information, simply by means of emails.
Thus, it is extremely important that you understand the difference between a spam email and a phishing email before you can access one.
What is a spam email?
A spam email is basically those hundreds and thousands of unsolicited emails that are sent out, solely with the purpose to sell a service or product. Spammers usually send such emails to a long list of recipients, in the hope that at least a few of them will respond back. The intention behind sending these spam emails is to simply lure recipients into buying dubious products or participate in fraudulent and quasi-legal schemes.
Some of the most commonly circulated spam emails cover topics including – Lottery, Travel, Credit/Debit Card, Fake Antivirus, Bank Loan, etc.
What is a phishing email?
A phishing email on the other hand is a kind of spam email that is sent out specifically, to trick you into sharing your personal details like, debit/credit card details, bank account details, passwords, etc. Sharing your details through such phishing emails can lead to cases of financial fraud through identity theft. At times, these emails are specifically targeted to dig out personal information about your colleague or company. Such emails are referred to as spear-phishing targeted emails.
The most significant differentiating factor between a spam and a phishing email is that spams are not meant to acquire sensitive user information.
How to identify phishing emails?
There is no rocket science behind identifying phishing emails. You just need to have an eye for few important details:
Malicious Website Links – One of the most common types of phishing emails, is one containing link to a malicious website, disguised to look like a legitimate one. These can be in the form of login screens of banking websites. No sooner that you enter your username and password, your login details will get stolen providing the spammers easy access to your bank account.
Infected Attachments – Phishing emails usually either of these two types of attachments:
- HTML Attachments – These are basically the infected .html files that exist in your inbox.
- Macros – These usually contain attached documents that can be opened only after you enable macros.
As soon as you open any of these attached files or documents, you are bound to provide easy access to your system to the already waiting cyber criminals.
Eye-Catching Subject-lines – One of the most common types of phishing emails are the ones containing subject-lines that seem too good to be true.
Eg: Claim your winning amount of Rs. 10,000 or you have just received a $100 gift card from Amazon.
The best way to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of such phishing email attacks, is to keep a check on the following things:
- Check the authenticity of the website before you decide to share any personal information online.
- Check website URL for spelling errors, changed domain name or language. Most often these are a clear give-away that the website may be malicious.
- Confirm the email ID requesting you for details, by directly calling the company.
Such small initiatives on your part can play a critical role in protecting you and your system from malicious phishing attacks. This can also make it easy for you to differentiate between spam and phishing emails.