Does that email pass the smell test?

In the month of January alone, the UNC Health Care email gateways blocked approximately 21.5 million emails that were deemed to contain some undesirable component such as spam, malware, or scams of some nature. Despite the number of emails that were blocked, a not insignificant number of malicious emails still find their way to coworkers’ mailboxes. Read these tips to help determine if an email can pass that basic smell test.

When the email filters fail to block a malicious email, our last line of defense often becomes the recipient’s ability to detect the email as being bad. Unfortunately, this can often be difficult to do and requires that staff maintain a certain level of suspicion around each email they receive. Below are some tips to help determine if an email can pass that basic smell test.

The Y-test:  If at any point in assessing or reading the email you find yourself making a puzzled face and asking yourself, ”Why?”, there is a good chance that the email is bad and should be discarded:

  • I know this person/organization, but why are they sending me an email about something that doesn’t make sense?  If you are still in doubt, call the person or send them a separate email (do not reply to the suspect email) to confirm before you click on any links or open any attachments.
  • Why did I receive an email from a bank I don’t have an account at?  If in doubt, call the bank rather than clicking on links in the email or opening attachments.
  • Why…?

The Fear Factor Test: Malicious emails frequently try to create a panic situation relying on fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) by using subjects like the ones listed below:

  • Your account has been turned over to a collection agency
  • Your credit card has been billed…

Don’t fall into that trap. If the email causes your eyes to bug out and your heart to skip a beat, take a deep breath and assess the situation before opening any attachments or clicking on any links.  Use an independent source to confirm the situation and do not rely on any contact information in the email.

If the email can’t pass the basic smell test, opening attachments or clicking on links in the email will rarely produce a favorable outcome.  In the event that you are still unsure about the email, contact the UNC HCS Service Desk at 984-974-4357 for assistance. Look for more tips on sniffing out malicious emails in future newsletters.

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