Email, first created in the 1960s and now familiar to businesses everywhere, is a vital piece of technology that enables us to communicate via the Internet. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, technologies like these are more important now more than ever so that even as we are social distancing, we are never socially isolated.
Unfortunately, where there is an opportunity there will be someone waiting to take advantage of it. And so it has been with the current situation, as online attackers have come out in droves. As of March 2020, it was reported that COVID themed spear phishing emails alone rose by 667%.
Types of spam emails
Spam is any unsolicited, irrelevant, or inappropriate message via the Internet to a large number of recipients. At one point or another, we have all come in to contact with these annoying messages on different platforms such as WhatsApp and email.
Different types of spam emails include;
- Unsolicited advertisements; You know the type, a company that you’ve never heard about and don’t care for shove their product right in your inbox, tempting you to tell them where they should shove their advertisements.
- Phishing scams; “Gooogle.com”. “msg-africa.com”. “farcebook.com”. What all of these website names have in common is that they are all wrong. However, on a busy day, most people may not notice the typos in links embedded within phishing emails. After clicking, these links will direct users to sites that will also appear legitimate in order to trick them into divulging login details
- Email spoofing – If phishing is Bonnie, spoofing is Clyde. Spoofing is the act of forging an email header so that the message appears to have originated from someone or somewhere other than the actual source since people are more likely to open an email when they believe it has been sent by a legitimate or familiar source.
- Ads; this is one of the most common types of spam. You probably already receive several unsolicited emails offering products and services, such as weight loss pills. In many cases, it may be a scam but the offer may also be real.
- Hoaxes; include offers and miracle promises, such as, for example, “get rich in less than a month” or “gain the body of your dream by eating more and working out less”. In general, this tactic is used by spammers to hold your attention and direct you to a malicious website.
- Money scams; here we have spam messages with easy money promises, such as the Nigerian prince scheme. In this case, you apparently only have to lend a small amount of money to receive a big reward in the future. Money spam also involves asking for money for hungry children in Africa or for families who have suffered losses as a result of a natural disaster.
- Trojan horse emails; type of spam emails is named after the infamous strategy that the Greeks used to infiltrate Troy. In the modern-day, this is an email that seems harmless enough, but hidden within is a malicious payload just waiting to wreak havoc on your system and beyond.
- Anti-virus spam; these are common spam emails usually delivered with warning subject lines such as ‘Your computer is infected!’ They are characterized by shouting subject lines, many exclamation points, and are used to invoke doubt and fear within its recipient. Additionally, hackers use email spoofing in order to appear to be from a legitimate source such as your current antivirus service provider.
- Chain letters – these emails are filled with conspiracy theories and hoaxes that encourage users to forward the message to other users in order to avoid a negative outcome.
- Porn spam; this type of spam is also very common. Sending pornography through email is widely used by spammers because the pornography market is very lucrative, increasing people’s interest. Of course, spammers know that and use it to create malicious emails using erotic images and videos.
Without an effective email security solution, all the above types of spam emails can be delivered to your organization’s mailbox. The threat is further aggravated by employees, the weakest link in your network’s security. Without proper training and awareness, business decision makers risk costly irreversible attacks every day.
Types of malware spread via spam emails
So, having covered how the attacks happen, let’s cover what they contain.
- Ransomware; ransomware such as Wannacry hold your precious data hostage, while the perpetrators demand a cash sum (ransom) in order to release the data you have worked hard to accrue. In a world where the value of data rises with each passing day, ransomware attacks have grave implications on business continuity, especially where no data backup or disaster recovery strategies are put in place.
- Key loggers – It is the blow you do not see coming that knocks you out. This is the principle this type of malware lives by. Unlike other viruses whose effects are visible given enough time, this works in the background, silently collecting all your keystrokes. That includes sensitive passwords and personal details that are periodically sent back to the hackers, leaving you completely at their mercy.
- Zero-day exploits – In early 2018, zero-day exploits known as Spectre left all Intel-based CPUs vulnerable to certain types of attack. If the patches were not implemented sooner, this would have left 80% of the world’s computers vulnerable to cyberattacks. Today, zero-day exploits are still common and many of these occurrences are not made public knowledge.
The above are a few examples of malware commonly spread via emails. Because the majority of computer viruses are delivered via email, an effective email security strategy is critical in protecting your business from viruses, malware, and other serious digital threats.
With the rapid evolution of modern, sophisticated email threats such as zero-day exploits and ransomware, traditional antivirus software is insufficient in protecting users against dangerous and costly attacks. For effective email protection, this technology must be implemented as part of a multi-layered cloud email security solution that provides comprehensive, real-time protection in the context of today’s complex and ever-evolving email threat landscape.
An effective spam filter will protect your network from such threats by;
- Reviewing message contents to determine if it is spam.
- Reviewing email headers in search of falsified information.
- Stopping all emails that come from a blacklisted list of known spammers.
- Using user-defined criteria to block spam
What should an effective email security solution contain? Read more in our previous articles below.