2020 saw more businesses adopting remote work setups, not only to keep operations running but also to curb the spread of the pandemic. And with this deeper dependence on online systems came more aggressive spam attacks. In fact, the highest number of spam attacks in the second quarter of 2020 was recorded in April, when the pandemic started picking up its pace and businesses began implementing work from home arrangements.
What exactly is spam?
Spam is any unsolicited communication sent out in bulk, usually via email. This includes promotions, advisories, or updates that recipients didn’t ask for. And sometimes, among the uncountable junk emails that flood one’s inbox, dangerous emails sneak in. If your remote workers are not careful about these three types of spam, they can put your business at risk.
Types of spam to avoid
The majority of spam emails are harmless, albeit annoying and productivity-draining. However, a small percentage can be harmful to users, devices, or organizations. Beware of the following:
1. Phishing emails
Phishing emails are one of the most dangerous cybercriminal schemes in existence. By mimicking a legitimate person or institution, the sender tricks recipients into giving up login credentials, credit card information, Social Security numbers, and other sensitive information. Well-executed phishing scams use authentic-looking email addresses, legitimate letterheads, and urgent calls to action to convince potential victims to act without thinking.
Phishing ploys come in various but equally clever ways, so beware of emails that ask you to:
- update billing information;
- pay an outstanding balance;
- reset your password or verify your account; and
- verify purchases you never made.
Do not disclose private information over email, especially if you don’t trust the sender. If you’re unsure of the sender’s legitimacy, verify their identity using other communication channels. One slip can let hackers into your systems, so always be vigilant.
2. Advance-fee scams
These are scams that promise victims vast fortunes in exchange for a minimal cash advance, like the infamous Nigerian prince email scam or the 419 fraud. In the said scam, the sender — purportedly a Nigerian prince — presents an “investment opportunity”: if the recipient helps him swindle millions of dollars out of Nigeria, they will be rewarded with a percentage of the smuggled money. All the recipient has to do is provide bank account details and a small cash advance to complete the money transfer.
Just like any scam, it promises a reward that sounds too good to be true. Yet people still fall for it. In 2019 alone, Nigerian prince scams raked in over $700,000 from unsuspecting victims. Don’t be part of this statistic by deleting any email that asks you to send money or reveal financial information.
3. Malware spam
Malware spams, or malspam, are messages that contain or lead to malicious software. The malspam sender urges the recipient to do a simple, almost instinctive action, such as “download attachment”. When the victim falls for the bait, the seemingly safe attachment file runs macros or scripts that unleash malware and render the device unusable.
Users can also be prompted to click on a link that redirects them to malicious websites. We’ve seen this scheme in myriad COVID-19 scams during the early stages of the pandemic, as cybercriminals took advantage of the chaos and confusion to send malware-ridden emails about vaccines, medical equipment discounts, and the like. To this day, malspams still make their way into employees’ inboxes, usually outside working hours.
Some email clients automatically send sketchy emails to the spam folder, but just in case, be on the lookout for suspicious activities. Don’t click on a link without hovering over it to check its destination. And if you receive offers like discounts and vouchers, check the official site of the supposed company that sent it to verify their legitimacy.
Remote working arrangements have opened up businesses to more cybersecurity vulnerabilities than ever. Get peace of mind by partnering with Complete Technology. We’ll guard your IT infrastructure with customized tech solutions, protecting it from spam and other cybersecurity threats 24/7. Schedule a FREE consultation with our business technology experts today.