How to identify malicious e-mail

How to identify malicious e-mail

As reported by CNET, a scam email was enough to bring down Australia’s national broadcaster, ABC News 24. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) 24-hour news programming was disrupted after the organization became the victim of a ransomware attack. The malware took hold after an employee clicked on a link provided in a phishing email that appeared to be from Australia Post, claiming to contain information about a package that could not be delivered.

Island Hospital’s mail spam filter processes roughly 15,000 – 20,000 messages a day. On average, less than 4000 of those messages are legitimate. While our mail filter has done an effective job of stemming the tide, there have been instances where cleverly crafted messages make it past our defenses. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you identify or avoid messages with malicious content:

What does a phishing e-mail message look like?

Here is an example of what a phishing scam email message might look like:

How can I identify a phishing e-mail?

Phishing e-mails often contain similar characteristics that you can keep an eye out for.

  1. Spelling and/or bad grammar – Cybercriminals are not known for their proper use of spelling and grammar. Professional organizations will have staff that edit mass mailers to ensure that messages with poor grammar or spelling do not go out to their end users
  2. Links in e-mail – If you see a link in a suspicious email message, don’t click on it. Hover your mouse (but don’t click) to see if the address matches the link that was typed in the message. In this example the link reveals the real web address.
  3. Threats – Scammers will often use threats that your security has been compromised and you need to take action or else some action will be taken against you. (See example message)
  4. Spoofing Popular Companies or Websites – Scam artists utilize company graphics, letterhead, etc. in phishing campaigns so that their e-mails appear to be connected to legitimate services or websites. However when you click them they redirect you to phony scam sites or legitimate-looking pop-ups.
  5. Cybersquatting – Cybercriminals also use web addresses within their e-mails that resemble the web addresses or names of legitimate websites or well-known organization. Keep a keen eye out for any oddities within a URL. In this example you can see how quickly and easily you could accidently get redirected.EmailPhishing3


I clicked the link. What should I do?

  1. Don’t Panic – Contact Information Systems immediately. Our help desk staff will be able to advise you regarding next steps to remediate the issue. Early detection helps to the lower the impact malicious software can have on your workstation as well as the entire network.
  2. Stop Typing – Once you’ve clicked the link it’s time to stop inputting sensitive information. Chances are you’ve been redirected to a site or form that intends to capture information for malicious purposes.


Phishing is one of the many snares that Information Systems works to keep at bay by utilizing various technologies. However, new methods emerge on a daily basis and messages are bound to slip through. If you are the recipient of one of these types of messages, please contact Information Systems. Often times, there are measures that can be taken to help ensure those messages get properly blocked.