From time to time, suspicious email arrives in your email inbox. It doesn’t matter what email system you use, from Gmail, to Outlook, or any other tools to pickup mail – they’re all susceptible to hacking, phishing, and malicious link attacks. Here’s what to do when you get an email that looks suspicious.

Change Your Password Immediately

If you get a strange looking email, and you don’t click any of the links, you’re probably ok. But, if you clicked on a link, and you get some sort of “missing page” error, or you don’t see what you expected to see, chances are someone, or something, is trying to get your password.

Change your password immediately to secure your account. Sign out of all known sessions, too, if you can. If you work within a managed environment, like a school, contact your local IT crew to alert them, and to get some help.

Oftentimes, the IT team can help you mitigate threats at a different level, and often deploy quarantines and rules to shut the threat down, and keep it from spreading.

Know Your Mail, and What to Expect

Learn to recognize what legitimate email looks like, especially from people you regularly communicate with. Is Steve asking you to sign a document, but you haven’t heard from Steve in 6 months? It’s probably fake.

Is someone sharing a folder with you that you weren’t expecting? It’s probably fake, too. Learn to only work with stuff you expect to appear in your inbox.

Know Your Company’s / Organization’s Tools

Are you getting a file attachment, or something shared using an application you’ve never heard of? Or is it shared through an application like Google Drive, or G Suite (which your organization is using)?

It’s important to recognize valid applications and email attachments, just like you check before opening the door to strangers at your own home.

Brush Up on Your Geography

A lot of hacking / phishing attacks and attempts come from overseas. Some don’t, but the majority seem to originate from outside the USA. Learn to recognize links that end in something else than the regular .com, or .org. Have a link that ends in .id? That goes to websites in Indonesia…

Were you expecting something from Palembang? Didn’t think so. Don’t click that link! To check links, hover over suspicious stuff, and check your browser in the lower corner – it will show you the intended link targets. Don’t click if you don’t trust. It’s safer that way…

Why Won’t It Stop?

Because plenty of folks click the links. And it’s worth it to hackers to continue building up their system of compromised computers, rosters of user names and passwords, and best of all, credit cards and social security numbers.

Typical attempts target thousands of users (through a network of compromised email accounts) and some of them will click the link without thinking twice. It snowballs from there.

And once they have your stuff, it’s sold on the black market of the internets for cash money. And so far, it’s worth it for hackers in Indonesia, or Namibia, or China, or wherever they may be.