Threats to your safety come in many forms – including those that threaten the data on your electronic devices. Last week, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office released tips from one of our data security partners, Computer Forensic Services.

No person or organization is immune to one of the most common and dangerous cybercrimes: phishing emails. Phishing emails are often cleverly disguised as legitimate communications with the intent of tricking the victim into offering up personal information, sharing credentials, or downloading malware. These emails capitalize on a sense of urgency, making the victim believe that they need to act immediately. They frequently appear to be coming from a legitimate source or entity, and can seem personalized to the victim. These sophisticated attacks are easy to execute and can cost a victim financially, reputationally and operationally.

Awareness of this type of threat is instrumental in preventing their damaging effects. A few practical tips can keep the potential risks at bay:

1. Act slowly. If an email prompts you to act quickly, the action required is time-sensitive, or there is any kind of deadline mentioned, proceed with caution.

2. Read carefully and be aware that legitimate organizations tend to avoid asking for personal information in an email. If an email seeming to come from a financial institution is asking for a password or PIN, it may be a phishing scam.

3. Follow up. If an email seems to be originating from a known person, ask him or her to verify their request.

4. Avoid clicking on links contained in emails. Hover over the links to see where you are being directed.

5. Organizations should incorporate phishing email awareness into cybersecurity training for all employees. As with any security trend, stay apprised of new phishing campaign strategies.

Phishing emails once had a reputation for being easy to spot. Grammatical errors, poor writing, suspicious content, and an unknown sender usually provided enough clues to steer clear. However, as technology becomes more sophisticated, so too do the attack methods of cybercriminals. Acting cautiously can make the difference when it comes to avoiding the risks associated with these types of attacks.


– Contributed by Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office

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