Possibly the most frustrating issue we have to deal with at Cogenesis is scammers and spammers sending malicious email attachments to end users. We have a number of systems in place to prevent these emails arriving in the first place, though it is inevitable that some will make it through our defences. While we run regular backups and industry standard anti-virus programs to mitigate any damage done, the single best way to prevent damage occurring is to educate users on how to spot malicious emails. Scammers and virus authors have a strong financial incentive to do what they do, whether it’s through stealing credit card or financial information, using your machine as a slave to send out mass emails or holding your files for ransom, malware is big business. This means that there are people out there constantly developing more sophisticated techniques to not only fool the mail and anti-virus scanners but also to fool the end users into opening their payload. Below are some basic steps you can take to help ensure you are not opening something you shouldn’t.
  • Is the email from someone you trust?
    • Is it really? You can double click on a sender in outlook to check their email address, does it look like it’s from the right sender?
    • Does the email look like previous things you’ve received from this person?
    • Does it have the same kind of grammar and vocabulary that you’d expect from this person?
    • Does the style (font, signature, colours) of the email fit the previous emails you’ve received from this person?
    • Try emailing the person back to confirm they intended to send you the email in question, they may be infected with a virus that sends out copies of itself to their contact list.
  • Is the email purporting to be from an official agency like the ATO, Australia Post or a Bank?
    • Are you expecting email from these institutions?
    • Does it have an attached office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc.) document? Most institutions will only send out statements, receipts etc. in PDF format. A great general rule is that if you receive an office document from an “official” source it’s probably a scam.
  • Does it have an attachment?
    • In general, if you are not expecting an attachment don’t open it.
    • If you have to open the attachment for whatever reason first save it to your machine and run a virus scan on it. You can do this by right clicking on the file and choosing to scan it with your antivirus program (probably Kaspersky if you’re a Cogenesis customer).
    • Sometimes malicious macros are embedded in word and excel documents, if you ever open an office document that asks you to enable macros DON’T, unless you are 100% sure.
  • Is the email directing you to download anything from a website?
  By following these steps and being aware of the dangers of opening unsolicited emails you should be able to avoid 99% of the scams and malware out there. For that last 1% or for any uncertainties, ASK SOMEONE, there is no shame in asking for help. If you’re a Cogenesis customer just give us a call on 1300 88 35 99 or send the email through to us as an attachment to servicedesk@cogenesis.com.au (compose a new email and drag the suspect email into it, just like you would a file) we’re always happy to have a look at any suspect emails for you, we’d much rather help you spot them before they cause issues.