For most of us, the amount of emails we receive on the daily is staggering, to say the least. A person with the most mundane subscriptions and a YouTube account might receive an average of 10-15 emails per day, informing him or her about the latest video uploaded by their favorite content creator.
Now imagine if any one of these emails were corrupted with malware or a virus. We’ve all been the recipient of spam emails and most times; curiosity gets the better of us. Opening up a spam attachment could have devastating consequences for the uninformed common man.
However, to make sure that the horrid scenario of having all the sensitive files on your device from happening to our readers. We’ve compiled an article that’ll bring you in the loop regarding all the dangers associated with emails. Mentioned below are some cyber-security threats you need to keep a sharp eye out for, since these days, it’s pretty much impossible to tell when the dangers lurking around the internet might infect you.
To stay safe and vigilant while emailing all of your dearest contacts, keep reading on!
Cyber-security email threats you need to be on the lookout for!
1- Spam Emails:
As stated above, one of the worst and most prominent ways hackers get access to your sensitive data through spam emails.
Despite an arsenal of techniques used to filter out spam and junk emails, it manages to sneak its way into the inbox of thousands somehow. Although usual spam might be nothing more than just a menace, you need to be careful with how to deal with the problem.
When left unattended, spam can be used to propagate malware and ransomware into the devices. Both malware and ransomware are most commonly spread through spam attachments, which then corrupt files on your device, whereas ransomware demands a hefty sum of money after sabotaging and encrypting all your files.
2- Phishing Attacks:
Unlike spam emails, which seem sketchy from the get-go, phishing attacks are far more sophisticated.
The primary reason for phishing attacks appearing to be complicated and sophisticated in their layout is that these attacks are carried out after the victim develops trust with the assailant. After the victim believes that the email being sent is from a trusted source, the attacker uses psychological manipulation to get their victims to give up sensitive information about themselves.
A typical phishing attack email consists of a legitimate-looking sender with a message somehow related to the potential victim. If you’ve been searching for a job, chances are you’ll find an authentic appearing email about a job offer that you just can’t refuse.
Most users will click on a malicious link within the email and find that doing so has all their data sabotaged by the attackers. Most phishing attack assailants use the data they’ve collected and sold it to criminals with malicious intent.
3- Spear Phishing:
Simply put, spear phishing is a more advanced and more lethal form of your standard run of the mill phishing attack.
The main difference between spear phishing and the typical phishing attack lies in the potential victim of the attack. Spear phishing constitutes a highly customized attack aimed at a particular individual or organization.
To make sure that these attacks are successful, hackers will conduct an extensive amount of research before creating an email which appears to be authentic. The sender of the email would probably pose as a colleague, or as a potential business client to garner the victim’s trust.
Another common type of security threats associated with emails is spoofing. Since spam filtering protocols lack any measures to identify and erase any illegitimate email addresses, cyber-criminals can exploit that to their benefit.
Hackers and other cyber-criminals trick their victims into opening emails containing malicious links by using email addresses and domains that bear a striking similarity to actual email addresses in use.
Criminals usually spoof victims by using similar names in their email addresses to propagate spam into the inboxes of as many people as possible.
Malware is fundamentally an umbrella term which has all pesky viruses, infections, and corrupt software under its wing. Perhaps the oldest entry point for malware is through email attachments.
The content of the email encourages the victim to download and run a malicious file, which then corrupts all files and renders the device useless. However, modern malware spam attachments provide a link to the malicious software in the body of the email, which downloads itself automatically.
Malware can be particularly pesky if an email sneaks its way into your inbox since malware consists of everything from spyware to Trojans, all of which can have deadly consequences on your sensitive data.
Although ransomware falls under malware, it can have a much more lethal impact on organizations and individuals, since a successful ransomware attack depends on causing a substantial financial loss to the organization or individual attacked.
The most common entry point for ransomware is the same as malware- email attachments. Once you click on a ransomware email attachment, all the files containing crucial data get encrypted and sabotaged by an attacker.
The only way for you to gain access to these files is through a decryption key, which the assailant provides once ransom payment has been made. Famous ransomware attacks in the past have seen up to 3 million dollars lost through ransom payments made so that victims could gain access to crucial data that was stolen from them.
On the surface, email client misconfigurations seem like a trivial problem not big enough to be included on this list. Well, you might be surprised when you hear that the root cause for most security issues begins with a poorly misconfigured email setup.
If you’ve disabled specific security settings on your email account, a cyber-criminal can easily connect to your account without authentication of any sort. Misconfigured email accounts are also more susceptible to most of the vulnerabilities mentioned on this list since most sketchy spam emails are sure to sneak into their inboxes.
8- Man-in-the-Middle- Attacks:
Man-in-the-Middle-Attacks, also known as MITM attacks occur when the cyber-criminal impersonates the victim by inserting themselves between the user and the service they’re using.
MITM attacks are particularly dangerous since the attacker has the power to alter all the sensitive data belonging to the user, along with the liberty to sabotage online communications. MITM attacks often see victims have money stolen from them since hackers gain access to all their bank credentials.
9- Zero-Day Exploits:
A zero-day vulnerability refers to any security exploit that is new to the software creator. Cyber-criminals then exploit the gap in security for their benefits.
Since the software developer is unaware that about any software vulnerability, the cyber-criminal the hole to garner sensitive personal information, and to gain unauthorized access to confidential data and information.
10- Key Loggers:
Key loggers are a method employed by cyber-criminals to obtain access to IDs and passwords, among other user credentials.
Key loggers are usually incorporated within the body of an email, where the potential victim clicks on a link or a malicious attachment. By clicking on the corrupted link, the hacker successfully gains access to sensitive information, which then enables them to sell user credentials.
Stolen credentials are still the primary ways through which hackers go about their business, even with all the modified security measures we have available today.
Now that we’ve given you all the required information about cyber-security email risks, it’s your time to shine.
With that being said, try to avoid clicking on any emails that scream “SPAM” and be on the lookout for any emails that seem legitimate, but something about them just sounds “off.”
Also, it would be in your best interest to invest in robust Anti-virus software which detects any malware, or infected software in your emails.
After all, it’s much better to be safe than sorry. This is especially true when it comes to email.