A few generations ago, Coca-Cola promoted drinking their product as “the pause that refreshes.” These days, we all need a different kind of pause – one that protects us from phishing, ransomware and other online disasters.Hack #3: Wait, Wait, Don’t Click That!
As part of our blog series on 10 hacks for safer cyber citizenship, today we offer a simple “pause that protects” you from email-borne trauma.
We’re all busy. We’ve become good at multi-tasking. But the downside of doing umpteen things at once is that we have too much on our minds. To keep things going, we tend to skim and scan incoming emails. Do I need to deal with this now, or can it wait? Unfortunately, all it takes is one inattentive click, and cyber crooks and criminals have you right where they want you – handing over your personal identity details, your money, or even access to your computer and files.
Yikes! That email seemed so real, so pressing. Turns out it was all a big fake – and a darn good one. If only you’d said to yourself, Wait, Wait, Don’t Click That!
Pausing for a few seconds to carefully examine emails can save you countless hours – perhaps years – of headaches and heartache. You know that already. We’ve all seen repeated news reports about people who have been taken in by seemingly innocent or dire phishing or ransomware -- emails that urge you to click on a link to “verify” personal information or open an attachment you “need” to see right away.
But you don’t worry. You’re smarter than that, you say to yourself. You’d never fall for those tricks. In reality, though, you might do just that because the Bad Guys are that good. And they’re getting better every day. They know exactly how to push your buttons. The only way to outsmart them is by invoking the pause that protects.
Then look more closely at that email. It looks legit, but is it? Phishers lure you with realistic details, including hijacked logos and other faux-but-genuine-looking visuals. They often use real names, too – your insurance agent, or a co-worker, for example. Examine the sender’s information – the mailed-by and signed-by addresses should match and be what you would expect from that sender (not some third party). Messages from any entity that handles your personal information should also be encrypted.
Keep in mind that government agencies (at any level) do not send emails to private citizens about anything. They send letters.
If the email seems OK but you still have that funny feeling in your gut, wait, wait, don’t click yet. Go directly to the source for verification. Go to your browser and search for the purported website. Better yet, call the supposed sender. Or get up from your desk and go find that co-worker.
The bottom line? Expect to be a potential victim, because odds are good you will be targeted by cyber crooks. You probably already have been. Every time you wait to click, you’re taking the pause that protects you and your data. Keep checking back to learn more of our 10 hacks for safer cyber citizenship.