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How Good Are You At Identifying Phishing Emails?

January 24, 2019

Phishers can use all sorts of tricks to fool you into thinking a domain name linked to in an email is legitimate - are you confident in identifying them?

Dealing with email isn't without its risks, particularly with so many bottom-dwellers eager to grab your personal details for nefarious purposes. 

While many early phishing attempts were accompanied by poor English littered with spelling and grammatical errors, scammers have refined the design of their messages over time.  If you're in a hurry and the email is particularly convincing, you could find yourself in trouble clicking on links in these communications. It's not enough these days to just judge an email on its language. 

Even if you take the added precaution of moving your mouse over a link to check where it leads to, special care also needs to be taken rather than just a quick glance. One of the ways scammers encourage you to click on links to their sites that mimic legitimate businesses or install malware is to use domain names similar to ones you probably already trust. This can be done in various ways such as replacing the letter l with the number 1. For example, google becomes goog1e. While the latter used in a domain name wouldn't stand up to close scrutiny (or many server-side filters), the phishers are counting on some messages slipping by and not everyone paying close attention.

So how good are you at identifying dodgy domains in email links? While on the topic of Google, it has launched a quiz so you can test yourself.

But wait a minute, the domain name for the quiz is https://phishingquiz.withgoogle.com/ - not https://phishingquiz.google.com/  or https://google.com/phishingquiz/. Is withgoogle.com really a Google controlled domain or some tricky phisher using the Google brand to their own wicked ends? How can you tell if it's legit?

One way to do so is to check the WHOIS record for the domain. The result doesn't display Google as the registrant, but it does indicate it points to Google's nameservers, which is a good sign. Also the registrar is noted as MarkMonitor, which is a company that provides brand protection services to high profile business clients - another good indicator Also, if you search on "withgoogle", you'll note Google has other projects using that domain.

So, having established the domain is indeed legitimate - take the quiz and see how you fare in spotting phishing domains.

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