In today’s internet reality, you simply must be hyper-vigilant with your inbox. What do I mean by this?  I decided to write this article as a result of one of my clients contacting me with disturbing questions. I answered my client with what I think are the top three reasons to become hyper-vigilant when it comes to email and your inbox.

Email has been around for so long, that just about everyone knows to watch out for suspicious emails. Thankfully the spam filters catch the majority of problem emails.

Those emails from ambassadors from African countries are getting better, but How many foreign dignitaries are there that have millions to share if we’ll only agree to help them move it out of the country? These scam artists are almost humorous at this point.

Easy Money offerings, Male enhancement, Russian Brides, and such offerings sometimes make their way through the filters, but most know better than to open them.

However, there are three reasons I think it’s getting far, far worse. Hyper-vigilance is the only way to preclude ourselves from new forms of damaging intrusion. The bombardment of more sophisticated email scams has increased in the past year. Those set out to do harm and rip people off are getting better at what they do.

Top 3 Reasons to Be Hyper-Vigilant with Your Inbox imageThe top 3 reasons we need hyper-vigilance in today’s email world are:

  • Viruses, malware, Trojan Horses, spyware and open click triggers are getting more prevalent by the day. Often it is only necessary to open an email without clicking on anything to infect your computer hard drive and files. If there happens to be an image link within the email, it can infect whether or not the link was clicked. Systems recognize the fact that an image (that could be infected) exists in the email. Merely opening the email is enough to do significant damage.
  • Sophistication has gotten to the point that emails used to mirror banks and other financial institutions, service providers such as source registrars such as Network Solutions™ or Godaddy™ are almost impossible to detect. They resemble real messages from legitimate sources with pinpoint accuracy.
  • Ransomware is becoming a more and more successful way for nefarious individuals to not only infect email accounts but take over entire hard drives. A message pops up and commands the reader to contact an “authorized” solution provider. Said provider will only repair (unlock what it is that has arrested your entire system) with a hefty fee.

Unfortunately, there is a double edge to the hyper-vigilance sword we must wield. Becoming so aware and concerned about phishing scams, viruses, and ransomware can present another set of problems. The following real-life case study will help explain.

A client received an email from a domain registrar claiming that their domain was due to be renewed. You see, this email looked legitimate enough from the subject line, but it included numerous links that made her suspicious. Our client mistook that as a spam email and deleted it.

Several months later, unknown to her, she learned that her domain URL had been deactivated for lack of renewal and her website was not visible.

Naturally, when she discovered the issue by way of another email from Network Solutions, she contacted me immediately.

Hovering over the links displayed what looked to be a legitimate URL. But how do you know what’s real or impersonated? Hackers have become ingenious and disguising actual link addresses. The language was clearly American English, unlike in times past. These assailants are perfecting their approaches.

The solution was to login to her Network Solutions™ account manually through a browser. We could then see what services were due for renewal and whether or not the email was legitimate.

Using the transaction number in the email, we determined that it was, in fact, a real renewal that was overdue.

Had we clicked on the link it may have worked fine, causing no problems. However, the risk of clicking on a link could result in acquiring a virus or Trojan Horse. The instant the link is opened, the devastation is downloaded to the computer.

Often, malware, viruses and the like can burrow into a file and go undetected for any length of time, only to trigger at a specific date or certain word combination, things of that nature. The risks are just too high to take emails for granted.

In my client’s particular instance, we were able to go in reacquire her domain, but you get my point.

My Prescription

There is only one way to protect yourself and your computer from this sort of intrusion. Establishing the process of opening links to sites in a browser rather than your email system will save you. This process must become the SOP for everyone using your network of computers. It’s simply too commonplace for emails to be rendered realistic but to contain precarious links.

One last point I wish to impart. If you do not utilize a regularly scheduled system backup, sooner or later you’ll regret it. Backing up your computer daily, weekly or whatever will afford you the benefit of owning a mirror image of your operating system, files, and apps. I recommend regular daily backups. In fact, if you haven’t looked into cloud backup, it’s high time you did. At a minimum, hold a copy on a portable hard drive and keep it away from your place of employment. In the event of a natural disaster, you’ll not be out of business in the absence of all your records.

You must be hyper-vigilant with your inbox, along with a religious commitment to backing up your computer. You must develop a perspective akin to holding a ticking bomb waiting to go off. One day you’ll wake up and discover you’ve got a horrible problem.