Let’s take a bite out of spam

By Michael Boyd, Southwest Chief Information Officer

Michael Boyd

Can you tell the difference between a spam email and a legitimate one? Ever wonder why you receive them?

Spam magnets are websites that look like actual websites, don’t have “https://” and misspell the web address on purpose (i.e. www.paypa1.com instead of www.paypal.com). Other reasons you may get a sudden influx of spam, also known as phishing email, include posting your e-mail address publicly, especially on a social media website like Twitter or Instagram, and the most common method—opening a spam email and responding to it.

What to do

If you suspect you have received a spam email, here are a few tips to help you identify those pesky security risks that disguise themselves as official Southwest email:

Don’t trust the display name or email signature

A favorite phishing tactic among cybercriminals is to spoof the display name of an email or paste a fake signature at the end of it. Nearly half of all spoofing email threats spoofed legitimate people and organizations in the display name or email signature.

Look, but don’t click

Hover your mouse over any links embedded in the body of the email. If the link address looks weird, do not click on it.  If you want to test the link, open a new window and type in the website address directly, rather than clicking on the link.

Check for spelling errors

Colleges are pretty serious about official email.  Major spelling errors and poor grammar are red flags. Proceed with caution by reading the email carefully and reporting anything that seems suspicious to the Help Desk at helpdesk@southwest.tn.edu.

Don’t click on attachments

Including malicious attachments that contain viruses and malware is a common phishing tactic. Malware can damage files on your computer, steal your passwords or spy on you without your knowledge. Do not open any email attachments you weren’t expecting.

Don’t believe everything you see

Spammers/Phishers are extremely good at what they do. Just because an email has convincing brand logos, language and a seemingly valid email address, does not mean that it is legitimate. Be skeptical when it comes to email—if it looks even remotely suspicious, do not open it.

Let us know

If you ever are in doubt, reach out!  Validate the authenticity of a suspicious email by calling or sending a separate email to the person that sent you the suspicious email.  Again, the Southwest Help Desk is at your disposal.  Email helpdesk@southwest.tn.edu and we will help you determine whether an email you received is spam or legitimate.