Phishing is a hacker’s easiest method of gaining access to your computer, network, and personal data. Phishing is most common via an email sent with a file or attachment although there are other methods such as via social media, websites or even via phone text or other methods. It is easier to trick you than to hack your computer or network.
A hacker’s goal is to get you to install malware that gives them a backdoor into your computer or to steal your username/password to your email or other systems. Some of these are very basic and are widely distributed in hopes of a few people clicking through while some are highly targeted towards a user using things the hacker learns from social media and other sources.
If you receive a suspicious email, the easiest way to check it is to contact the sender via another medium, such as a phone call or walking over to their desk to verify it is real. The fact that you are questioning the email is also a pretty good indicator that it is a phishing attempt. If it urges action, anger, embarrassment or other psychological motivator, be very cautious as that is part of social engineering.
If you want to check a link yourself, copy and paste links into a free link checker, such as Norton’s Safeweb or if it is a shortened/abbreviated link such as from bitly, try the website Checkshorturl. If it is a file, such as Adobe and Microsoft documents, verify it with the sender, as these files are commonly used for malware. At the very lease scan it with antivirus.
If you and your business are interested in having your own free online cybersecurity training with a focus on phishing and other threats, please contact us for licenses to Kevin Mitnicks’ famous Knowbe4 training program. These free licenses are available only via the Wyoming SBDC for Wyoming businesses for a limited time.
Finally, think twice before you plug any USB device into your computer whether it be a thumbdrive you found or were given at a conference or even a USB speaker you “won” at a tradeshow.
Jim Drever is the regional director for Albany and Carbon counties and helps small business owners with general business topics and issues related to cyber security. Jim holds an MBA from the University of Wyoming and is a certified expert in cyber security.
When he’s not in the office:
When Jim is not helping clients, in his spare time he also works as a volunteer fire fighter and a volunteer ski patrol at Snowy Range Ski Area. He enjoys the outdoors, reading, traveling, and pursuing a lifetime of learning.