October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month when we focus on safeguarding our digital assets and learning about the ever-evolving threats in the cyber world. As a small business owner, you may think your company is too insignificant to be a target, but that’s far from the truth. In recent years, small and medium-sized businesses have risen to the top of the list as prime targets for cyberattacks.
According to Deloitte, a staggering 91% of cyberattacks begin with a phishing email. Phishing attacks are like digital wolves in sheep’s clothing. They appear harmless, but they’re out to devour your sensitive information, finances, and the trust your customers have in your business. There was a 76% increase in direct financial loss from successful phishing in 2022.
The good news is that you can significantly reduce your vulnerability to these attacks by becoming more cyber-aware. To help you with this, Sean Murphy of CMIT Solutions has put together seven ways to identify a phishing email.
Seven Common Characteristics of Phishing Emails
1. Is the Email Unexpected?
Let’s say you run a charming winery, and you receive an email claiming to be from a potential wine distributor interested in your unique collection. The subject line reads, “Exciting Partnership Opportunity.” This is the first time you’ve heard of this distributor; they’re not on your contact list. This is a red flag. Phishing emails often rely on unexpected and unsolicited communication to catch you off guard.
**Example:** You receive an email from a sender named “WineDistributorX,” and you’re asked to provide sensitive business information immediately. Be cautious. Legitimate business inquiries typically follow established channels and don’t demand immediate action.
2. Is the Email Urging Urgent/Critical Action?
Imagine you’re in the midst of your daily operations when you receive an email with the subject, “Immediate Action Required: Account Suspension!” This email claims to be from your wine supplier and says you must click a link to prevent your account from being suspended. The urgency in this situation should raise suspicions. Phishers often use panic as a way to get you to act impulsively.
**Example:** You receive an email demanding that you verify your wine orders by clicking on a link. But hovering your cursor over the link doesn’t lead to your supplier’s website. Instead, it goes to a suspicious-looking URL. Don’t click. Verify the request through official channels.
3. Is the Email Addressed Generically?
Your winery’s success is built on relationships and personalized customer service. So, if you receive an email that starts with “Dear Valued Customer” or “Hello Winery Owner,” and it’s not from a recognized source, be cautious. Phishing emails often use generic greetings as they lack specific knowledge about you.
**Example:** You open an email addressed to “Winery Owner.” It appears that a bank is asking for your financial details to resolve an issue. Legitimate institutions would use your actual name and provide specific account details, not vague generic terms.
4. Is the Email from the Wrong Sender?
You maintain relationships with various suppliers, distributors, and customers in the wine industry. If you receive an email from a known partner, but something seems off, it could be a phishing attempt. Check the sender’s email address carefully, as attackers often create similar-looking addresses to mimic trusted contacts.
**Example:** You get an email from a supplier you’ve worked with for years, but the sender’s email address has a subtle typo. For instance, if the actual address is email@example.com, the phishing email may come from firstname.lastname@example.org. This small difference could be an attempt to deceive you.
5. Is the Email Full of Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation Errors?
Your winery prides itself on its commitment to quality and professionalism. When you read an email that’s riddled with grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, it’s an immediate sign that something is amiss. Phishers often rush their emails and neglect the finer details.
**Example:** You receive an email that reads, “Dear sir/madam, your account has been compromised. Plz reply with your info.” These errors in language and grammar are clear indicators of a phishing attempt.
6. Does the Email Contain Bad-Looking or Wrong Embedded Links?
You’re accustomed to receiving emails with links to order forms, wine promotions, or information about wine tastings. However, if you encounter a link that looks odd, has misspellings, or doesn’t match the content’s context, it’s a cause for concern. Please hover your mouse over the link (without clicking) to see the actual URL it leads to.
**Example:** In an email that claims to be a wine order confirmation, you notice a link that says “wineorderconfirmation.biz.” Instead of clicking, hover over it to reveal the real URL, which might be unrelated to wine, like “shadylink.com.”
7. Does the Email Include an Enticing, Voyeuristic Attachment?
Phishers sometimes use psychological tricks to pique your curiosity. An email with an attachment labeled “Exclusive Wine List” or “Behind-the-Scenes Winery Tour” might lure you in. These attachments can carry malware or lead you to malicious websites.
**Example:** You get an email with an attachment that promises an inside look at your competitors’ wine production secrets. Be wary. Phishers often use these attachments to compromise your computer or network.
In conclusion, cybersecurity awareness is crucial for every small business owner, especially in the wine industry. Small and medium-sized businesses are increasingly targeted by cyberattacks, with phishing emails being a prevalent entry point. By paying attention to these seven signs and being cautious, you can safeguard your winery and protect your digital assets.
CMIT Solutions also highly recommends providing ongoing cybersecurity awareness training to everyone in your organization. Such training should include simulated phishing attempts, which ideally are created to be “real world” learning examples rather than “tests” (which can create unnecessary anxiety).
In honor of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, CMIT Solutions offers free, no-obligation online cybersecurity awareness training and phishing simulations for your entire company!
Please send Sean an email to learn more.
Stay vigilant, stay secure, and keep your wine flowing without interruption. Remember, in the digital age, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Cheers to a secure and prosperous future!