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How to identify a Phishing email?

It is no surprise that technology is evolving rapidly, and as our reliance on technology continues to rise, so do the dangers it brings along with it. We are surrounded by not one or two but many cyber threats each day. Malware, virus, phishing, and ransomware attacks are just a few examples of threats you might have read or heard about recently in the news.

Cybercriminals are regularly working on establishing improved ways to breach the security mechanisms we put in place. As a result, it is more important than ever for us to identify and mitigate potential threats before attackers exploit them.

When launching attacks, emails are considered one of the preferred methods to infiltrate a system by cybercriminals. We all understand the importance of emails in our everyday life. It is one of the most common modes of modern communication; we use it extensively at work and for our personal correspondence.

Understanding how attackers use phishing emails to scam individuals and businesses will prepare you to fight against any future threats.

What is Phishing?

Phishing is a social engineering technique used by attackers to trick their victims into giving out sensitive information, including but not limited to personal data, login credentials, bank or card details. Social engineering techniques are techniques used by attackers to manipulate their target by making them believe the attacker is a genuine entity so that they can successfully steal victim’s confidential data. Some of the most common types of social engineering techniques include- phishing, tailgating, and pretexting.

Cybercriminals when launching phishing attacks in most cases, disguise themselves as trustworthy entities, send malicious links or attachments through emails to their victims and lure them into sharing sensitive data or gain illegal access to the victim’s system once they have downloaded an attachment.

There are many different types of phishing techniques cybercriminals use to achieve their goals which include-


• Spear phishing
– this is usually undertaken when attackers know who their target is and send out a message specifically targeting their victim,


• Whale phishing
– attacks target the CEO or others in higher designations in the organisation,


• Social media phishing
– refers to attacks launched via fake social media profiles by befriending victims,


• Smishing
– also known as SMS phishing, through this attacker either make use of text messages or other texting platforms such as WeChat, WhatsApp, or iMessage to create a sense of urgency in the victim to submit confidential information,


• Vishing
– malicious activities executed by making calls to targeted individuals instead of launching email or text-based attacks.

How to identify a Phishing email?

Phishing attacks are among the most prevalent types of cyberattacks you will encounter as an individual or organisation. Scammers have long used and improved the very same old and repetitive tactics to exploit victims. By merely manipulating individuals’ weaknesses, cybercriminals fool them into clicking on harmful links or downloading malicious files to get their hands on valuable and sensitive information easily.

Even after being aware of and informed about the phishing attacks occurring worldwide, we fall prey to the attackers’ tricks. However, you can stop these attacks provided you know how to recognise them efficiently.

So, let us now go through some of the cues one can look for to identify a phishing email successfully.

1. Dodgy email address:

In most phishing emails, you will likely find inconsistencies in the sender’s email address. Genuine companies usually have their unique email domain in their address (the exception may be some small organisations). As a rule of thumb, always check the sender’s email address whenever you receive an unexpected email or email from an unfamiliar sender. And when you do, make sure you do not click on any links or download any attachments until you are sure it is safe. If it isn’t, report it to your IT department immediately.

2. Grammar or spelling mistakes:

One of the simplest tricks to spot a phishing email is by analysing its writing style. Suppose the email contains spelling or grammatical errors. These apparent errors could signal a red flag that the email is a phishing email as genuine companies use various tools to ensure the drafted content doesn’t have any significant mistakes before sending it to a large audience.

3. Personal details are requested:

You might have noticed when genuine organisations, especially banks, send out official emails to their customers. They often attach a note informing the company would never request your confidential information over email, call, or text as legit companies understand the importance of privacy and security. Thus, when you come across an email that requests you to submit your details refrain from doing so as it is a scam.

4. Skeptical content:

Imagine receiving an email regarding winning a lottery ticket you never purchased or winning a contest you never participated in. Strange, isn’t it? Similarly, phishing emails may often contain communication about you winning a prize, lunch date, or even a holiday for two. But these rewards are mere tricks to lead you to the fraudulent page created by the cybercriminal to collect your confidential details.

5. Contains suspicious attachments:

Attackers may employ various methods to deceive their targets, such as text messages and social media. They may not necessarily always use emails to mislead their victim. Their goal is to capture sensitive data such as personally identifiable information, bank account, or credit card numbers. You must always keep an eye on suspicious attachments contained in the communication received. These attachments are often infected and, once downloaded on your device, may transfer the control to the attacker.

Protection against Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks have become increasingly popular in recent times. No organisation is immune to cyberattacks as cybercriminals are always on the lookout for confidential information. However, each small step taken towards implementing appropriate security measures can help them in their process to mitigate such threats effectively.

Below we list a few easy steps you can follow as a starting point to protect yourself from potential phishing attacks: 

• Educate your employees on phishing and its various formats, conduct sessions to share examples and common tips and tricks to spot phishing emails and other threats,

• Encourage staff to make use of multifactor authentication so that even if the attacker manages to steal login credentials, they will not be able to access data without successfully completing the extra step of verification,

• Invest in technology that offers advanced protection to your data, devices, and network,

• Install and enable the anti-spam filter as the software comes with the capability to examine your incoming emails and determine whether they are genuine. Any email found suspicious is immediately moved to the anti-spam folder,

• Enable appropriate browser extensions to restrict yourself from accessing or browsing malicious sites.

Reduce your risk with F1 Solutions.

Falling victim to a cybersecurity attack can seriously damage your business. F1 Solutions, as an experienced managed service provider, works to protect Australian businesses from security breaches or events, taking swift action in the event of an attack.   

Whether it is protection from phishing via email, malware infection from email or web browsing, ransomware, or any other type of cyberattack, we commit to providing maximised security to all our customers. Our immense experience and deep subject matter expertise help us ensure our clients and their stakeholders are kept safe.

Our support packages cover a wide variety of services, including but not limited to; Office 365, antispam protection, antivirus installation, backup, disaster recovery, and much more. We create support plans according to your organisation’s unique needs so that you can focus on your business goals without worrying about your IT infrastructure. 

Contact us today to discuss your security assessment.

Zarthost Boman
Written by: Afifa Qureshi October 2021