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Beware the malicious email attachment

Forget the outdated stereotype of the “hacker in a hoodie” who is attempting to decipher the code to your employee portal in order to pilfer data, hijack the computer system, or infect it with a virus.

The most significant hazard to a company’s cybersecurity is its own employees, and it is not difficult to convince them to collaborate with hackers unknowingly in order to facilitate an attack.

Sometimes, the perpetrator can simply send a simple email to the recipient, posing as a client, co-worker, or even the CEO, and requesting that the recipient obtain what appears to be an official file.

Verizon conducted a study in 2016 that demonstrated that email attachments are the gateways through which two-thirds of malicious software, or malware, can infiltrate computer systems.

The files that have been contaminated appear to be harmless. The accompanying message is frequently designed to appear and sound authentic, imitating the layout and tone of a typical work email and spoofing the identify of a genuine colleague.

It is a classic phishing scheme in which the sender deceives the recipient into accessing malicious files.

Methods for identifying a malicious email attachment

One indicator that recipients should consider is whether the file attachment includes the (.exe) or (.dmg) extension in its name. These are applications that execute immediately upon clicking the file. The malware is able to assume control when these programs are executed.

(.js), (.scr), and (.zip) extensions may be used instead for other high-risk attachments.

Conversely, certain malevolent files are safeguarded by a password. They are identified by a (.docx) or (.pdf) extension and necessitate that recipients input a password, which is typically included in the message. The malware activates and hijacks the system once the recipient opens the document.

At the back end, all of this can be resolved by closely monitoring email traffic, tracking the files that are received into the company’s server, their origin, and their destination, and establishing restrictions on the access of corporate and employee files and the secure storage or sharing of these files.

However, employees must also exercise caution when it comes to dubious emails and the social engineering strategies that render them so persuasive.

“If you receive an unsolicited email from an institution that requests sensitive information and includes a link or attachment, it is likely a scam,” stated David Ellis, vice president of investigations at SecurityMetrics.

“The majority of organizations will not send you an email requesting passwords, credit card information, tax numbers, or credit scores, nor will they provide you with a link to log in.”

Scammers frequently issue users with imperative requests, and they may even threaten them if they fail to comply. Before clicking on a link or attachment, it is crucial to review the content of the email.

Charles Johnson, CEO and founder of EDTS, a US computer security specialist, stated that numerous phishing emails require only a single click to grant the criminal access to your otherwise secure systems.

Johnson suggests contacting the originator to verify that they have indeed shared a file. “Before sharing or downloading information, cross-check unexpected emails from individuals in authority over the phone or in person,” he advised.