And as you’re checking your email before the long weekend, you get a message from one of your favorite online stores.
You disregard a couple weird typos and feverishly double-click on the invitation to a massive blowout sale on bobble head collectibles. Sweet victory is fleeting, however, once your computer slows to a snail’s pace, settings and preferences have a mind of their own and your honey-badger-don’t-care wallpaper mysteriously disappears.
Shazbot! You’ve been hit with a Labor Day phishing scam.
Hackers are experts in disguising phishing emails and websites to look like the real things. And a holiday makes for the perfect time to rope us in with promotional hype that speaks to our little deal-seeking hearts. Find out how to protect yourself from Labor Day malware threats and identify the signs that point to trouble.
A wide range of phish-blocking, virus-killing, Trojan-slaying software packages are designed to spot harmful software before it has a chance to ooze its deleterious contents into your computer. Usually, for the annual cost equal to a few hamburger and hotdog buns, you can install these defenses against the Web’s bad guys. Most of these packages will also protect your passwords and offer backup services for your important files.
The best practice is to block these messages before they ever hit your inbox. Email filtering and spam detection have strengthened in pace with spammers and work by preventing the malicious content from reaching the device in the first place. Whether you’re reading the email on your PC or smartphone, a friend’s tablet or on a public computer, the harmful contents will be headed off at the pass.
Remember that sometimes these messages can appear as if from friends. These spammers try to emulate normal interaction in your life - yet if you step back, there should always be a detail that doesn’t jive with emails that you normally get.
"Check out these pictures of my neighbor’s dog!" "Hilarious! Look at this funny video!" "Please open this as soon as possible and attend my party." "LOL Did you see this ROFL!" The impetus behind these messages - funny pictures, a video, an invitation - is all normal but often the delivery is off-kilter.
Usually when we’re clicking through emails, we don’t stop to acknowledge the nagging feeling, "Wait, why did she phrase it that way?" If a glimmer of that thought crosses your mind—stop. And then send your friend a message asking, "Hey, did you send me a message about [X]. Just double checking. It seems phishy."
For strange or too-good-to-be-true "can’t miss" sales emails, stick the body of the suspect message into a search browser. Copy and paste several sentences or the link into the browser; if it’s a scam, results will be populated with forums discussing how people dealt with that particular threat.
If the malware phishing scam is at day zero (i.e. people haven’t started discussing it online and spam fighters haven’t had time to construct the right protection), then call the store or source directly to confirm the email’s veracity.
The best way to protect yourself is to bypass shortcuts by clicking the link and instead visit the Website by typing the URL in the browser. If there really is a massive Labor Day sale that you can’t miss, it’ll be clear on the store’s homepage.
Taking the extra step to stay in control of where you’re going and what you’re doing with your browser, rather than trusting a suspect email. Online banking got ahead of this trick a long time ago and (should) never ask you to click directly to your account from an email; you always need to type in the URL yourself.
Malware will always exist—and the three-day holiday makes it open season on consumers. The game is using the right tools and common sense when surfing and clicking on the wires. Don’t get hooked by Labor Day malware threats—enjoy your barbeques and beach parties with peace of mind.
By Caleb Garling