Google will provide you with this warning if it believes your email is being attacked by a foreign government.
Unfortunately, the sad truth about the internet is that there are still plenty of other criminals and malicious actors who would be more than happy to set up shop in your email account or break into your computer and hold it for ransom. Even more likely are attacks aimed at your work email to attack your company’s systems.
Computer security company Kaspersky Labs reports that its anti-phishing system was triggered more than 30 million times in Q2 2015. And that’s just on computers that use Kaspersky software.
So how can you protect yourself against similar attacks? With a little knowledge and some patience.
According to Haley, the biggest giveaway that the email you’re reading is a phishing attempt is if it has typos or poor grammar.
More sophisticated attackers, though, will ensure their emails are crisp and typo-free, so you’ll have to do a bit more investigating. Kaspersky recommends hovering your pointer over any links in emails to preview them for typos or inconsistencies. If it’s a phishing scheme, the link preview will point to the wrong site. So if you get an email from Amazon and the link points you to stealyourstuff.com, you know it’s a fraud.
Better yet, don’t even bother with the link in your email and go to the official website named in the message instead. In other words, if you get a email from FedEx or Google asking you to click the link in the message to check your account, just go to FedEx or Google’s website instead.
And don’t fall for messages urging you to click on any links in your email immediately. “When you see that kind of urgency of getting you to try to click on something that’s a big warning sign,” Haley said.
Outside of links, you’ll also want to avoid downloading any files you’re not expecting to receive, even if they come from family or friends. There’s no reason for major companies to ask you to download invoices or order forms via your email unless they’ve already told you to look out for them. And while you might think you can trust your friend’s email, there’s always the chance that it too has been hacked and is being used to attack others.
Naturally, one of the best ways to prevent a phishing attack is to install a solid anti-virus security program on your computer. Many modern AV solutions offer protection against spam and phishing attempts.
If, however, you think you’ve already been the victim of a phishing scam, the best thing to do is disconnect your computer from the internet. Haley says this can prevent any malicious software on your system from sending your data back to the criminals. Next, you’ll want to run your AV program to try to remove any malware that you may have. If none of that works, Haley suggests seeking professional help to clear out your system.