So, your computer is running slow, it won’t get online anymore but nothing has changed on your network. You start getting weird emails and your entire contact list is sending you hate mail asking you to stop spamming them with junk. Sounds like your system got sick. There are a lot more dangers out there then just Viruses and Worms that everyday users need to be aware of such as Malware, Spyware, and social engineering to get your personal identifiable information. Email is the number one way to get exposed to these dangers.
One of the most used methods of getting your info is social engineering. This can happen in many different ways. Email happens to be the number one method. This is not only used to try to trick you into sending out that personal information such as your home address, bank account numbers, social security numbers, usernames, passwords (and so on), but can also infect your computer with any number of malicious software. The number one rule of thumb is DON’T OPEN EMAIL YOU DON’T TRUST! This can be hard to determine. Spam filters are getting better and better but so are the spammers. There are things you can see that hint towards SPAM. If it is an email from any of your service providers, there will never be a request for you to send out your user names or passwords as they manage that information. If it is from your Bank, they will never ask for account numbers. One that I have seen a lot is from a service provider asking for information and not leaving a support number or contact method other than reply. THIS IS SPAM! Every legit service provider I have worked for will always leaves a support telephone number AND support email address to reply to when an email is sent out. Keep an eye out for thing that makes you suspicious, and then delete that email.
Another email trap is links attached to your emails. Again there those emails from banks and service providers that say, “We need you to verify your account. Please click on the link below.” This can be a tricky one. Once again, any respectable business will send a support telephone number and email address to respond to. If there is not any of that on the email don’t click on the link. These links can install malicious software that can take over your computer with out you knowing about it. This software can include your computer into a BOTNET. A botnet is kind of like a brain bug that will give its owner control over you computer to make you look like the bad guy. This is used mostly for spamming. Your virus software and email provider should scan every piece of mail you receive but sometimes these emails get through.
Be careful with who and where you leave your email address. People will sell it and trade it for spamming. Even leaving your email address on a application for contests or registration for some website can invite piles of junk and spam. One thing I have done myself is setup 2 email addresses. One email address is for legit emails and personal communication. The second email address is for potential junk and commercial use such as registering for commercial things or contests. I check it once or twice a week and delete everything when I am done. Keep your system clean and safe surfing!
By Brett Wutzke, CCNA