Email Malware - How to Recognize & Prevent Malware Email Attack
- by Brittany Day
When you open up your email to check your inbox, does malware and the serious threat that it poses to you and your company on a daily basis ever cross your mind? It certainly should.
Malware, a term that describes any program or file that is harmful to a computer user, does not discriminate: attacks can target anyone. However, research shows that 58% of malware attacks are directed at small business. And the consequences of a successful malware attack aren’t pretty. According to Accenture, the average cost in lost productivity of a malware attack is 50 days. For any business, this amount of downtime would have severe consequences.
Malware attacks can also have serious implications for society as a whole. Just a few days ago, a ransomware attack caused three hospitals in Alabama to turn patients away. Because the hospitals have limited ability to use their computer systems, they are unable to take new patients. And, sadly, this is not unusual. Over 75% of the healthcare industry has been infected with malware over the past year. Last week, another devastating malware attack left Sandusky County without access to their servers. A week later, the county’s servers are slowly being restored.
Although different malware variants have different methods for spreading and infecting computers, 92% of malware is delivered via email. Because email plays a pivotal role in business and society, we are all at risk of getting hit with malware. However, by implementing a comprehensive, multi-tiered cloud email security, users can significantly mitigate this risk.
What is malware and how does it work?
Malware encompasses all software that is designed to disrupt, damage or gain unauthorized access to a computer system. Malware can perform various detrimental functions which include encrypting or deleting sensitive data, stealing, hijacking or altering central computing functions and monitoring users’ activity without their permission. Common types of malware include viruses, worms, trojans, ransomware, fileless malware, adware and spyware.
The method by which malware spreads and infects computers and networks varies case by case. Malware is commonly delivered as a malicious attachment or link in a phishing email. Most malware email attachments include code or exploits which cause your computer to download more malware from the Internet. Some malicious programs can be delivered via a USB drive. Others spread over the Internet through drive-by downloads, which automatically download malicious programs without users’ knowledge or approval. In malware attacks, threat actors frequently utilize a command-and-control server which allows them to communicate with and remotely control infected systems, as well as to steal sensitive data from compromised devices.
Malware attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated and difficult to combat. The most dangerous attacks utilize advanced social engineering techniques to penetrate and compromise systems. Once a system is compromised, sensitive data can be stolen and serious damage can be done before an attack is detected.
How to Recognize a Malware Email?
Knowing the common signs of a malware email is critical in protecting yourself and your company. Some “red flags” that indicate that an email may contain malware include:
- Suspicious sender’s email address: If the sender's address is unfamiliar or doesn't match an expected address for a company, then there is a good chance that it is a malware email.
- Generic greeting: If the email begins with a generic greeting like “Dear Customer”, it may be malware or a phishing attempt.
- Email subject or attachment contains your username: The Subject field of a malware email may either contain your username or be blank. Malicious attachments may also contain your username in the filename.
- Enticement to download an attachment or click on a link: Many emails containing malware will encourage you to either download an attachment or follow a link which leads to malware. Remember: Emails about package delivery problems have no good reason to require you to open an attachment. If they were emailing you about a legitimate delivery problem they would inform you in the body of the email.
- Suspicious attachment: If the email contains a suspicious attachment (such as a file with the extensions .doc, .zip, .xls, .js, .pdf, .ace, .arj, .wsh, .scr, .exe, .com, .bat, or other Microsoft Office file types), then it may be malware.
- Warning, threat or sense of urgency: Malware emails often attempt to get recipients to act quickly, before they have had adequate time to think things through. Be very wary if an email encourages you to download an attachment in order to solve a problem.
- Undisclosed or unlisted recipients: If the email recipient list shows either undisclosed or unlisted recipients or an email address other than yours, then it may be a malware email.
- Plain text/absence of logos: Most authentic emails are written with HTML and contain a mixture of text, logos and images. Malware emails tend to have plain formatting and rarely contain images.
- Unexpected attachment contents: If you do open an attachment and the contents are either empty or significantly different from what you expected, it may be malware.
Best Practices for Preventing a Successful Malware Attack:
Awareness and education are critical aspects of malware protection. Implementing these email security best practices will reduce your chances of suffering the consequences of a successful malware attack:
- Think before you act: Be wary of emails that urge you to act immediately or warn of negative consequences if you do not do so. Are you familiar with the sender? Do attachments or links included in the email appear to be suspicious in any way?
- Avoid suspicious websites: Malware attacks frequently involve spoofed websites. If anything about a website looks suspicious, be cautious and do not enter any sensitive data.
- Review software carefully before downloading: Prior to installing new software, look into the program and its reviews to ensure it is legitimate.
- Make sure all security patches and updates are installed: Install updates and patches as soon as possible to protect against malware and other digital threats. Turn on automatic updates whenever possible.
- Choose strong, unique passwords: It is critical that you use strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts. Enable two factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible.
- Limit application privileges: Because malware often needs full access to your computer to run properly, utilizing account controls to limit what a program or application can do without your permission is essential in protecting against malware. If you are notified of applications or software that are attempting to make changes to your system, take action immediately and seek the help of a security expert. It may be possible to stop the malware from installing.
- Turn on your firewall: Make sure that your firewall is correctly configured and turned on at all times.
- Invest in a high-quality cloud email security solution: AntiVirus software alone is insufficient in protecting against malware attacks. Malicious email attachments are often small, highly customized and not widely spread, making them difficult for even the best antivirus software to detect. Only a comprehensive cloud email security solution that accurately identifies malicious emails and prevents them from reaching the inbox can effectively protect against malware.
How Guardian Digital can Help:
Guardian Digital recognizes that antivirus software and many conventiontional email security solutions are not enough to protect against malware. Guardian Digital EnGarde Cloud Email Security provides complete, end-to-end business email protection from malware and other email threats. EnGarde’s key benefits include:
- Neutralizes threats associated with malicious attachments and links
- End-to-end email encryption and secure delivery
- Authenticates every email delivered using DMARC, DKIM and SPF
- State-of-the-art heuristic technologies recognize malicious code and accurately identify and block highly targeted phishing attempts
- Protects employees against social engineering and impersonation attacks
- Multi-layered open-source architecture
- Fully-managed solution that can be seamlessly implemented into your business’s existing infrastructure
- Exceptional 24/7/365 customer support
Want to Learn More about Malware and How to Protect Against it?
Do you have any questions about malware and malware protection that haven’t been addressed in this article? If so, please contact us and we would love to answer them!
Stay tuned for our next Email Threats Explained blog post: What is Spam Email?
- Effectively Securing Business Email Accounts: Are Employees the Weakest Link?
- Encryption: An Essential Yet Highly Controversial Component of Digital Security
- Business Email Security Redefined: Key Benefits of Securing Your Business Email with Guardian Digital
- 8 Business Email Security Best Practices
- Demystifying Email Encryption: Stop Sender Fraud
- Demystifying Phishing Attacks: How to Protect Yourself Now
- Demystifying Tax Fraud: How to Avoid Falling Victim to Deceptive, Costly Scams This Tax Season
- Coronavirus Phishing Scams are On the Rise - Is Your Business Email at Risk of Infection?
- Dave Wreski: Founder of Guardian Digital – Open Source Cloud Email Security
- New Ransomware Warnings: Is Your Business Safe from This Silent Threat?
- FBI: Existing Cloud Email Protection Inadequate Against Phishing, Ransomware
- Email Risk is Universal: Securing Business Email in Every Industry Sector
- How To Safely Navigate Office 365 While Working Remotely
- Tips and Advice for Staying Safe Online During COVID-19
- Why Your Business Needs Better Email Security
- Defending Against COVID Email Spoofing Attacks with DMARC
- You’ve Got Mail: How To Tell If It’s Fraud
- Open-Source Security Is Opening Eyes
- Think Like A Criminal: How To Write A Phishing Email
- The Four Biggest Email Threats Your Business Faces Today
- Everything On DocuSign Phishing Attacks in 3 Minutes
- Understanding Payload-Less Email Attacks in Under 3 Minutes
- Demystifying Fileless Malware in Less than 3 Minutes
- How to Protect Sensitive Data & Maintain Client Trust in Financial Services Industry
- Exchange Servers Are Vulnerable - Learn How To Secure Your Email Server Now
- Apache SpamAssassin Leads A Growing List of Open-Source Projects Taking Steps to Correct Instances of Racism and White Privilege
- Cyber Risk Is Greater than Ever in the Legal Industry
- Understanding Malicious URL Protection - And Why You Need It to Secure Your Email
- Email Security for SMBs Beyond COVID-19
- Email Risk Is BIG for SMBs - How To Protect Your Business Now
- Email Threats By The Numbers: How Big Is My Risk?
- The Modern Email Threat Landscape: Where Traditional Defenses Fall Short
- Why Email Security Is More Important Than Ever in This 'New Reality'
- The Threat of CEO Fraud Extends Beyond the C-Suite
- Top Email Security Trends Putting Your Business at Risk of Attack
- Think Like A Criminal: What You Need to Know About Social Engineering Attacks in 2020
- Managed Services: A Key Element of Effective Email Security that Even Modern Solutions Lack
- How To Secure Your Remote Workforce: Advice from Leading Security Experts
- FBI: The 2020 Presidential Election Is Under Attack by Email Scammers
- AT&T Security Researchers Identify a Correlation between Strong Cybersecurity and Business Success
- The Aftermath of a Cyberattack Pt. 1: Phishing Recovery Basics
- It Pays to be Prepared! Ransomware Preparedness & Recovery Basics
- Breaking Down Fileless Malware: Anatomy of an Attack
- Office 365 Email Is Vulnerable to Attack Without These Critical Supplementary Defenses in Place
- Keep the Holidays Merry & Bright - Beware of These Sneaky Seasonal Phishing Scams
- Migrating Business Email: The Hidden Complexities You Need To Know
- How Do SPF, DMARC & DKIM Secure Email Against Sender Fraud?
- Top Email Security Risks Heading into 2021 - How To Set Your Business Up for Safety & Success
- Your Current Approach to Email Security May Not Be Enough
- Ways to Prevent Email Account being compromised in a Breach
- Celebrating 20 Years of Revolutionizing Digital Security
- IBM Closes its $34 Billion Acquisition of Red Hat
- Interview with Security Expert and Author Ira Winkler
- What is Phishing Email? How to prevent Phishing email scams?
- Ways Our Business Email Exceed Your Expectations
- Spear Phishing Protection - Definition & How To Recognize Spear Phishing Email
- What is Whaling (Whaling Phishing)? & How to Prevent Whaling attacks?
- Ransomware Attack Explained - Best Practices For Ransomware Protection
- Business Email Compromise (BEC) - Definition & Prevention From BEC Attacks
- Wire Transfer Scams Involving Real Estate Transactions: How to Prevent Fraud with Effective Email Security
- Guardian Digital and Mautic: A Dynamic Open-Source Duo
- Email Malware - How to Recognize & Prevent Malware Email Attack
- An Open-Source Success Story: Apache SpamAssassin Celebrates 18 Years of Effectively Combating Spam Email
- What is Spam Email - Types & How to Prevent Spam Emails?
- Email Virus - Complete Guide to Email Viruses Plus Best Practices
- What Is A Zero-Day Attack & How To Prevent Zero Day Exploit?
- 2020: A New Decade of Digital Threats - Is Your Business Email Secure?
- Linux: An OS Capable of Effectively Meeting the US Government’s Security Needs Heading into 2020
- Complete Guide on Email Security & Threats Faced by Organizations
- Guardian Digital Keeps its Customers Protected from Intel Design Flaw
- Security Spotlight: Open Source Email Security Solutions
- Top Six Advantages of Open Source Development/Products
- Python and Bash - Contenders for the most used scripting language
- Guardian Digital Outlines Top 4 Benefits of Choosing Cloud
- Unrivaled Protection Against Today’s Most Dangerous Threats
- Guard Your Email Accounts Against Today’s Most Dangerous Threats
- Security Highlights from Defcon 26
- Linux / Open Source FAQs: Common Myths / Misconceptions
- Email Security FAQs Answered by Guardian Digital
- Guardian Digital Mail Systems: Designed to be Secure Without Fail