Six Signs of a Phishing Email

How Do You Spot a Fake Email?

(excerpted from an article at eero.com)

Phishing – a fraudulent attempt to obtain your sensitive information by disguising oneself as trustworthy – continues to be one of the most prevalent ways for hackers to gain access to your accounts and compromise your identity.

At the end of 2019, over 86,000 phishing websites were discovered per month. Here are six common signs you are reading a phishing email. Here is an example:

1. Sense of Urgency

While phishers are not limited in who they try to imitate, they often try to copy financial institutions, cloud logins (Apple, Microsoft, Google), or disaster relief organizations. Their goal is an obvious one – to get you to take action on the email. To do so, they inspire a sense of urgency by telling you your funds are at risk, your account is being closed, or some other impending negative action.

2. Suspicious Sender Address

Email applications can only go so far to protect you from phishing. Scammers will often buy a domain name similar to the one they are trying to spoof. In the above example, the fisher is trying to imitate acmebank.com. They opted to use acrnebank.com hoping that your eye would be tricked by using “rn” instead of “m”.

3. Generic Greeting

In an era where marketing is personalized, it is less common to receive an email with a generic salutation. Most trusted institutions will address you by name, especially when an action is required.

4. Spelling and Grammar Mistakes

Spelling and grammar mistakes are a telltale sign of a phishing attempt. Reputable companies proofread communications before publishing. Run-on sentences, misspelled words, and odd phrases are all signs that the email is not legitimate.

5. Link to Invalid Domain

The aim of a phishing attempt is to collect sensitive information. A common way scammers do this is by redirecting you to a fake online form. The link title and where the link takes you will often be different. It is simple to make a link “look” legitimate.

6. Suspicious Attachments

A more nefarious tactic is to attach infected files that allow attackers to gain a foothold into the system. Instead of simply gaining access to one account, the phisher now has to access to the entire computer. They can use their access to target your contacts from your email address. Common file types used include .pdf, .doc/.docx, and .exe files. However, attack techniques are always evolving.

How you can defeat phishing

  • Notice how you felt when you initially read the questionable email. If something felt off, then it probably is.
  • You can always go to the targeted site manually, i.e. go to your browser and type in www.acmebank.com, and do not click on a link embedded in the email.
  • Reach out to a professional or technical friend to get a second opinion if the email seems wrong.

Phishers use a combination of social engineering tools to trick you into doing what they want, and many of them are very good at it. Moreover, many of them target retirement-age individuals, who tend to trust what they read more than younger people do.

If you receive an email that looks suspicious, contact us and we’ll happy to take a look at it for you. We are here to help!

ProtonVPN – a VPN for the Rest of Us

ProtonVPN

Proton Technologies AG, the Swiss company that originally brought us the very secure ProtonMail, has recently released a VPN client, ProtonVPN. What is remarkable about this offering is that their most basic plan is free! Not just a free trial, but actually free.

 

What is a VPN and why do I need it?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and it is a way of making sure that communications with your devices are secure and are not intercept-able. When you are at home, you can be reasonably sure that your connection to the Internet is secure. But if you are outside your home, for instance at a coffee shop or a library or a hotel, your chances of someone trying to co-opt your data are very high. Using a VPN minimizes this risk. Having a VPN service available should be part of everyone’s data security plan.

There are a large number of commercial VPN clients available for both Mac and iOS on the market, including familiar names like NordVPN, HideMyAss, and ExpressVPN. Most of these services offer a free trial. But ProtonVPN is the only one we’ve found so far that offers an actual free service. Their for-pay accounts offer simultaneous VPN connections, more connection points around the globe, and higher speeds.

Their most basic plan does have some restrictions (like only 1 simultaneous VPN connection per account) but for most people, that is a workable solution. If you have not yet landed on a VPN service for both your Mac and iOS devices, your time has come – this solution is a no-brainer. Their Mac and iOS clients are elegant and very pleasant to use. They offer the ability to save profiles, such as US-FastestService or Germany-MostSecure, and much more, to provide easy, one-click access as you need it.

You can sign up for all of their accounts at prontvpn.com. You can also use these links to download their Mac client and iOS client.

Wait, it’s all too much; I need some help!

Yes, that’s why we’re here. Contact Us and we can set it all up on both your Mac and your iOS devices for you!

Can You Encrypt Your Documents Before Sending Them in Email? Yes!

Updated 5/2020 – In addition to everything noted below, you can also use the free Keka app to create encrypted .zip files

So – you have a Word, Excel, or PDF document that you want to send via email, but it is sensitive in nature. Now you are wondering if there is a simple way to encrypt that document so that no one can open it, unless they have the password. The answer is YES, and you don’t have to buy an expensive program to accomplish this.

This article will describe how to encrypt your documents using either the 2011 or 2016/2019/Office 365 versions of Word and Excel, and also how to use Apple’s included Preview program to encrypt your PDFs.

Important note!: You should use some other form of technology to communicate the password to your receiver(s), such as a text message, a phone call, or snail-mail. Using email to communicate the password defeats the whole purpose!

Encrypting PDFs

Apple’s Preview app can encrypt any PDF file in preparation for emailing or any other file-transfer method.

  • Open your PDF in Preview and go to the File menu
  • Hold down the Option key and choose the “Save As…” option.
  • In the dialog window that opens, you’ll see a checkbox titled, “Encrypt”. Select that and also give your document a slightly different name.
  • After checking that box, you’ll see a Password and Verify field. Enter your password into each of these and click the “Save” button.
  • Your newly encrypted PDF file’s desktop icon will now look like this:

What about PDFs within Windows?

Lifewire has a great article about encrypting PDF documents in Windows, using a free utility, PDFMate PDF Converter.

Encrypting Microsoft Word Documents

The methods Microsoft uses for various versions of Word look different, but the result is the same. You get a password-protected document that is not openable without the password (even by Microsoft).

Word 2011

  • Open your .doc or .docx file in Word 2011.
  • Go to the menu File:Preferences and click on the Security icon.
  • You will be presented with a dialog box in which to enter your password. I recommend NOT entering the password in the “Password to modify” box.
  • Press the return key to accept your password, then enter it a second time.
  • Save your document.

Your new file’s desktop icon will look like this:

Word 2016/2019/Office 365

  • Open your document.
  • Click on the Review Tab
  • Click on the “Protect Document” icon
  • Enter your password in the “Password” field. I recommend NOT entering it into the “Set a password to modify this document” field.
  • Click the “OK” button and save your document.

Encrypting Microsoft Excel Documents

The methods Microsoft uses for various versions of Excel look different, but the result is the same. You get a password-protected document that is not openable without the password (even by Microsoft).

Excel 2011

  • Open your .xls or .xlsx document in Excel 2011
  • Click on the Review tab
  • Click on the “Passwords” icon
  • Enter your password in the Password box. I recommend NOT entering the password in the “Password to modify” box.
  • Enter your password in the “Reenter password to open” box.
  • Click on the “OK’ button and Save your document.

Excel 2016/2019/Office 365

  • Open your Excel document
  • Go to the menu File:Passwords…
  • Enter your password in the “Password to open” box. I recommend NOT entering the password in the “Password to modify” box.
  • Click on “OK” and reenter your password in the “Reenter your password to edit” box and click OK and Save your document.

What about everything else?

The simplest way to encrypt other documents is to use an app that can password-protect your compressed .zip file (which the Mac does not do natively).

Keka is free from their website, or $2.99 from the App Store. It is simple and easy to use. Make sure to review their Help menu to get started.
WINZip is free for a limited time, and although its interface feels complicated and dated, it does work.

Practice Makes Perfect

Once you’ve gone through these procedures once or twice they will probably feel much easier for you. But if not, Contact Us, and we will be happy to walk you through all of it!

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