It used to be that if someone wanted to steal something from you or gain access to important documents, they’d have to know your home address so they could break in. These days, they just need your email address. Scammers and spammers trick you into downloading harmful programs, and we want to you with the tools to defend yourself.
This and other spam attacks leverage vast armies of bots — ordinary household computers infected with a virus that allows remote control of the computer by a hacker or spammer. Ever get a message from a friend or colleague saying they received spam from you? That’s what this is. Spam is enabled by all of the compromised computers and devices on the Internet. This allows the spammers to launch attacks from multiple locations and move to new locations when we shut down that specific source. It basically becomes a giant virtual game of whack-a-mole.
We are constantly working to improve our own defenses and have had success reducing the amount of recent attacks. One tactic we’re doing for specific customers who’ve been affected by spam attacks is to add another layer of filtering to incoming email. The approach involves delaying the delivery of email to the customer for up to five minutes as the filters take a closer look at the message for possibly harmful contents.
However, the attacks are continuously evolving. It’s critical to know how to spot a scam so you can keep your computer, network and private information safe. Here are 4 tips to keep in mind when you come across an email you don’t quite trust:
1. Defend Yourself
- Make sure your antivirus software is active, up to date and scanning regularly. This is your first line of defense, doing the work for you in identifying and blocking unwanted spam.
2. Don’t Click, Don’t Reply
- Never respond to a spam message or click on a link in the message to “Unsubscribe.” Doing either of those things only lets the spammer know they’ve reached a valid email address. They then will target that email address with even more spam and sell the address on the black market to other spammers. This is definitely a case where no response to the spammer is the best response.
3. Turn Images Off
- Spam messages often contain images, and these are used as a tracking tool that tells the sender that the account is active. Once they know they have an active account, more spam could be on the way. Most email services offer the option to turn off images, which you can then make active once you’ve deemed the sender is trusted.
4. Tweak Your Address
- Having a complex email address with letters, numbers, and other characters may be less user-friendly, but it’s also less friendly to spammers. Spammers often try to auto-generate email addresses using the basic ways people create email addresses as the template. A unique address can be harder for spammers to identify.
It’s an unfortunate reality that these attacks are a part of daily life online. Maintaining your defenses and obeying a few rules about unknown senders will help keep you safe from scammers and spammers.