'Tis the Season for Phishing

By James Robinson ·

It’s that time of year again, the holiday season. A time filled with friends, family, good food, and celebration. But of course it has its downsides as well; stress, debt, long lines and crowds. Many of us try to make the holiday shopping season a little easier by purchasing our gifts online in the safety and comfort of our homes. We can click our virtual shopping carts full, while sipping hot chocolate without even having to get out of our pajamas – what could be better than that? 

As our inboxes fill up with order confirmation emails, shipping notices, and endless advertisements displaying the “hottest” deals and offers, it can be hard to keep them all straight – providing the perfect opportunity for cyber grinches to strike.   

According to the EMC January 2014 Monthly Fraud Report, the fourth quarter of 2013 had the highest phishing volumes of the year. And this year that number is only expected to increase.  Malicious actors will take advantage of the increased number of consumers making purchases online with fraudulent, targeted phishing emails. 

Phishing emails contain malicious links or attachments that lure users into clicking on them, effectively launching an attack to acquire sensitive information. They are usually disguised as legitimate emails, but there are cues to look for that will help you avoid falling victim to a phishing attack.

The easiest way to recognize a phishing email is to simply trust your instincts. If something in the email seems a little “off” to you, chances are that it probably is. It may be from an unfamiliar sender, or the email address could contain a suspicious domain. The actual message could contain suspicious copy or links; maybe even an enticing deal that seems too good to be true (which it usually is). Recognizing these red flags and deleting the email before you click on any links or open any attachments, will keep you safe from phishing attacks. 

So this year, as an early holiday present, spread the word to your friends, family and colleagues about the dangers of email phishing and the importance of cyber safety. Increased education and awareness will help us all have a happier and safer holiday season.

James Robinson

Vice President, Third-Party Risk Management

As vice president, third-party risk management, Robinson oversees Optiv’s Third-Party Risk Management practice which includes the development and operations of TPRM-as-a-Service and Evantix. During his tenure at Optiv, he has worked as a core contributor around strategic internal initiatives including threat management, risk management, third-party risk management, vulnerability management and data program protection. He also develops and delivers a comprehensive suite of strategic services and solutions that help chief experience officer (CXO) executives evolve their security strategies through innovation.