Ransomware is one of the fastest growing cybercrimes. It allows hackers to hold your computer files hostage. The only sure way to get your computer files back is to pay the hackers a ransom.
Cybercriminals have thought of convincing ways to get you to click on their links, or open their infected attachments. One of the most common ways they attack you is through a fake email. For the most part, these emails look frighteningly realistic. They mimic the design and language of emails sent out by reputable brands including companies like Amazon, Netflix or even your bank, where you might believe something is wrong with your online account.
Our sponsor, IDrive, wanted to warn you about this and share five ways you can spot the red flags of a fake email. That way, you won't fall victim to ransomware. Here's what you should look for:
1. Email addresses
Emails that are sent out from a personal account should be the first red flag. Hackers can change the "From" field to give any name they want, but if you hover your mouse cursor over the name, or click on it, in most email services you'll see the actual address pop up after a few seconds.
The email address will likely look very similar to the actual address, so look for tricks like "amazon.something.com," or "email@example.com" where Amazon (or another company) isn't the actual domain.
If the email's links go to a form page on a random server that should be your second red flag.
If you click on them, you'll likely be asked to enter your username and password. Typing it in would have given the hackers access to your online account.
To spot this trick in fake emails, hover your mouse cursor over the button or link. You'll see the real link pop up after a few seconds. You could also right-click on the link, copy it and then paste it into a text document to see where it would really send you.
The hallmark of most phishing emails is the terrible use of the English language. Even in cases where the hackers take the time to get a template of a real email from the company, they still can't seem to write good copy.
While a company's official email might have the occasional misspelling or grammar gaffe, a standardized notification email like this should be perfect.
Aside from how the email is constructed, pay close attention to what it asks you to do. It says that there was a security problem with your account and you need to click a button to log in. That's a classic phishing technique.
Any responsible company that's sending out an unsolicited security notification will tell you to go to its website home page and log in to your account from there. It might tell you to call customer service with any questions. It won't tell you to click a button or link or download an attachment.
5. Fine print
Because most fake email templates are stolen from a real company, the fine print at the very bottom sometimes won't match up with the main body. For that reason, it's important that you always read the fine print. It's just another clue that could stop you from clicking and falling victim to ransomware.
In case you slip
Spotting fake emails is no easy task. Even the experts miss the signs occasionally. That's why it's also a good idea to have a backup plan. If your files are ever encrypted by ransomware, regular backups could save you a lot of money.
Our preferred backed service is our sponsor IDrive. It automatically backs up your important files to secure cloud storage. That way, they're safe from hackers and you can access your files from any computer while you're getting your system up and running again.
Unlike most backup services that charge per computer or device, IDrive lets you backup data on every internet enabled device in one account. This means you get one account for your computers, laptops, tablets, phones as well as your online accounts like Facebook and Instagram.
Plus, plans start at just $5.95 per month for 2TB of storage, which is less than your morning cup of coffee! And there's even a free option for up to 5GB of storage.
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Another advantage that sets IDrive apart is the speed of the backup of your files. While many other services clog your bandwidth, IDrive Express jump starts your initial backup, using a shipped drive method. Love that!
However, the key reason IDrive stands out is because it offers a wide scope of features with its plans.
Whether you're an individual who just needs to back up a single computer or a small business with servers full of customer data and financial records, IDrive offers a solution for you at an affordable price. Be sure to check out our other tip, which offers a quick breakdown of the features included in IDrive Basic, Personal and Business accounts.