What Is the Difference Between Spam and Phishing Emails?

With technology improving every day, making everything we do online easier and faster, cyber criminals are also developing more creative ways to scam and hack. The most common form of digital crime are Phishing attacks, especially ones that target emails which are an integral part of our daily lives. Phishing emails take the form of suspicious emails, seeking to lure people into opening malicious web links or attachments, through a simple email. We recently covered the different types of Phishing attacks, who they target and in what way. One question that we receive often is, “what is the difference between spam and phishing emails?” In this article, our Phishing Protection specialists breakdown everything to help you differentiate Spam from Phishing.

What is Email Spam?

Spam is essentially an unwanted email, also known as junk mail. They are emails sent in bulk with the hope that at least some people will respond. Spam email is often commercial and is not intentionally malicious. Spam emails promote unwanted advertisements, often offering something too good to be true or something that you never signed up for, sending the same message to millions of email users. Often annoying, most email servers can identify and auto filter these spam emails into the junk folder. It is important that you don’t respond to spam and check for legitimacy when clicking the unsubscribe link. As sometimes spammers create fake unsubscribe links in an attempt to collect active email addresses. Most importantly, spam emails aren’t phishing emails.

What is a Phishing Email?

Phishing emails are still unwanted emails, similar to spam. However, what makes phishing emails different is they are sent with malicious intent. They try to trick the recipient into giving away their personal data or to install malware on a victim’s system, stealing data gradually over time. Phishing emails try their best to disguise themselves as regular communications from legitimate and trusted companies. They tend to be more personalised compared to spam emails, often using your name or appear to be sent from an organisation you know or are part of. However, the email is attempting to steal your sensitive data. Phishing can also take forms in texts, voice messages and faxes making every effort to access your data. Due to advances in technology, phishing is continuously evolving, and criminals are using new methods to trick you. Behind every phishing email is a criminal attempting to scam you into revealing sensitive data.

How can I identify Phishing Emails?

It is very important to be educated on phishing so you can avoid being a victim of an attack. These are a few red flags you should be aware of when something lands in your inbox.

Emails asking for your personal details

such as your login password, pin code or bank account details. Your bank or other companies you are registered with will never ask you to confirm these details. Always think twice before giving out sensitive information over the internet.

Misspelling or grammar errors

Especially on emails which seem to be sent from legitimate companies such as your bank.

A sense of urgency and use of highly emotional language

Such as “as soon as possible” or “offer ends tomorrow”. Making you panic into a decision, and tricking you to giving your details away.

Claims that you’ve won something such as a gift card, or you have ‘funds’ in your name

Often asking for you to give away your details in order to receive your prize/funds.

Inconsistent website links

Leading to malicious websites which are disguised to replicate legitimate websites. Tricking you into ‘signing’ into your account, but you’re actually giving away your login information.

Corrupted attachments, often as HTML or macros files

Once you open these seemingly innocent files, you could have opened a virus or malware that installs on your computer and opens the door for criminals to easily access your personal information.

How can I prevent a Phishing Attack?

If you’re suspicious about the content of an email, do not open the message, any attachments or click on web links. The best practice is to delete the message. If the email seems to be sent from a legitimate company, call the company to check the validity of the email. The best way to prevent criminals from getting your data is to educate yourself and staff to recognise potential threats. Empower your staff to be the first line of defence to tackle phishing attacks when they arise. Stopping and reporting phishing emails in their tracks. Protect your business by empowering your staff to recognise potential threats that they can deal with in confidence. Our ‘Go Phishing’ Phishing protection software uses simulated phishing attacks and security awareness training campaigns to educate employees, making them the best defence against cybercrime. If you feel that your business could benefit from our Phishing Protection service, contact our team at info@clearyolk.com or give us a call on 0800 3688 977, and we’ll be happy to answer any questions and discuss what would be best for your business. Phishing Emails

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