Hands off

This month Windows Middle East turns you into a phishing expert to help you safeguard your hard-earned green from online thieves.

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By  Cleona Godinho Published  April 5, 2008

2. Subject title

The subject headline of a phishing e-mail almost always has a sense of urgency. The ‘Restore your Account Access' subject headline in the example above is a case in point. Common phishing headlines include ‘Very important announcement', ‘Account suspended', ‘Money received' and ‘Verify your account.' In addition to the urgency factor, be sure to look out for typos or spelling mistakes in the e-mail.

3. Who it is addressed to

Scam e-mails are usually sent out in bulk and don't include your first or last name. If you receive an e-mail that states ‘Dear Paypal customer' or ‘Greetings Souq customer', then the e-mail is a spoof.

4. The included web link

This is the most crucial clue to look out for. In our example above, the ‘Click here to restore your account access' leads you to believe you will be directed to www.paypal.com, however in reality you'll be redirected to http://www.gigantics.com/www.paypal.com/cgi-bin-us/cmd/webscr-cmd=_login/, which is a spoof website.

Now while some phishers use the text link tactic, others prefer to use ‘masked' web links. This means the link you see in the e-mail won't send you to that link but a phishing site instead. So clicking on say https://www.mebank.com would actually take to you http://192.165.18/mebank.html.

5. Urgency of message

Most phishing e-mails try to deceive you by warning you that your account will be in jeopardy if it's not updated immediately. An e-mail that urgently requests you to offer sensitive info is typically fraudulent.

In the above example, the phishers are trying to reel you in by claiming that your account has been compromised. Other spoof e-mails include statements such as, ‘If you don't respond within 24 hours, your account will be shutdown'. Don't fall for it.

3 ways to recognise a spoof website

1. The URL

If you visit a login page, online shopping site, banking or credit card website, make sure the URL in the address bar includes ‘https'. Mind you there is one extra ‘s' in bold, which signifies that the web server is completely secure.

For instance, http://login.paypal.com/config/login_verify2. As you can see from our example, the website does not include the ‘s' and is therefore unsecured and therefore a phishing website.

Moreover, if the web link you're visiting contains an IP address (e.g., then it's a without a doubt fake website, as no legitimate company would ever direct you to an IP-named webpage.

2. Domain names

Whilst some phishers use different domain names altogether, others use misspelled domains to trick you into thinking they are legitimate. They either buy a domain name that resembles the actual domain or they will swap letters very cleverly, so that it isn't obvious.

Therefore, it's key that you keep a close eye on the spelling of domain names and not be tricked into clicking on www.mircosoft.com or www.bankofvvalescom.

Also look out for variations in domain names. For instance, sites such as http://support.microsoft-security.net are not legitimate. If it actually belongs to Microsoft it will read http://support.microsoft.com.

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