The common hallmarks of a spam email

Fears surrounding the increasing risk of cyber-attacks in the UK have dominated the media ever since the NHS was hit by a ransomware attack earlier this year.

The worrying truth is that cybercrime really is growing increasingly common – and it is now more important than ever before to make sure that you and your business are protected.

A study carried out earlier this year by Juniper Research found that 50 per cent of UK small and medium-sized (SMEs) enterprises were hit by at least one cyber-attack last year, while data from the UK Government suggests that the average attack can cost an SME anywhere between £75,000 to £311,000.

Yet separate research has found that many businesses are not noticing that they have been hit by a cyber-attack until it is too late.

In many cases, cyber-attacks will be triggered by the opening of or interacting with a malicious spam email.

While prevention is always better than cure, here are ten tips from Moore Thompson on how to spot an email which has most likely been sent to you by a cyber criminal:

  1. The email contains spelling or grammar mistakes – i.e. ‘HM Revenue & Costoms’.
  2. You are offered something that appears too good to be true – i.e. a generous tax refund.
  3. The email instructs you to click on a suspicious link.
  4. The sender’s email address is unrecognisable – i.e. ‘h5hir67aasfyy4@outlook.com’.
  5. The email does not address you directly by name.
  6. Your email provider or virus protection software flags the email as dangerous.
  7. The email is from a person or contact that you do not know, or is a clear ‘spam’ email.
  8. The email appears to be from someone you do know, but is unexpected or incongruent – i.e. an email from your retired father entitled ‘update on system report’.
  9. The email contains a suspicious-looking attachment – in this case, it is crucial to always scan emails containing attachments with an up-to-date virus scanner, even if you 100 per cent trust the sender. If a virus is suspected, always delete the email immediately without opening it.
  10. You are not 100 per cent sure that the email is legitimate – if this is the case, call the sender and ask before opening the email or any attachments.

The above tips should help you to spot when you have been targeted by an opportunistic spam email attack – which hackers will usually send out to email addresses at random. However, it is important to keep in mind that not all cyber-attacks will originate from spam or unsolicited emails.

With this in mind, it is always wise to keep up-to-date virus protection software and to regularly update passwords for all of your online accounts in an attempt to ward off hackers.