This email advertises good deals. Is it real -- or is it malicious?

Jan 11, 2019 | News

You open a marketing email from a retailer you’ve never heard of. It looks pretty good. To see more advertised deals, you click on a link that takes you to their website. Moments later, a notification appears on your screen. It tells you that a virus was detected on your computer and that you need to download antivirus software to remove it. You decide to follow the instructions and, after installing the software, all seems well.

However, over the next few hours you notice your computer running considerably slower—sometimes even “freezing”— forcing you to do a restart.

What’s going on?

Beware of unknown websites

In this situation, Cyber Thief Sam has tricked you into downloading malicious software (malware) onto your computer by making you think it offered anti-virus protection. Malware downloaded onto your computer can steal your information, send spam email to your contacts, and even damage the hardware in the computer. It's another example of a phishing attack.

If you don’t know where a link goes, don’t click on it; if you do, the link might direct you to a malicious website where viruses and malware are just waiting to be downloaded unknowingly.

IMITS Information Security says

When you receive a link to a website you are not familiar with, or you land on a website that doesn’t look right to you, exercise caution with what you decide to do there.

Consider the following if you encounter a link in an email:

  • Have you heard of the email sender before? If not, don’t click on the link before you can verify that it was sent from a trustworthy source.
  • Does the email come from a known organization, but the email itself doesn’t seem to match the branding you would expect to see from them? Don’t click on the link. Criminals often try to imitate legitimate websites or try to pretend to be from reputable companies so that their victims don’t question the links they click on.
  • If you do click on a link to an unfamiliar website, do not download anything they ask you to.
  • Be suspicious of following any instructions from pop-up windows that appear while you browse the internet.

When you receive an email with a link or attachment, STOP yourself from immediately clicking on it. THINK about whether the email is legitimate. And only after you’ve determined the email is genuine should you THEN CLICK.

Stay tuned for our next article on Thursday, February 14!

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