Have you been up to no good? Email scammers are banking on it.
There’s a new email scam on the block. They might come from a random email address or one that worryingly appears like your own. The sender claims they have compromising information on you, maybe footage of you watching pornographic material, maybe access to your internal systems or something.
The email might also contain sensitive information of yours, like a password you might’ve used in the past. Don’t let this scare you into thinking they can actually blackmail you – they probably just found this information on the dark web when a large corporation like Equifax got hacked.
So what do you do?
First, ignore the email. Avoid opening it if you can and don’t open any attachments, they could contain malicious programs. These hackers might include a transparent, tiny image called a beacon. When you open the email, it loads the file from a remote server, notifying your spammers so they know they’ve hit a live, working email address. (Gmail and some other services may pre-load images to avoid this.)
Don’t pay out any ransom, don’t reply. If it appears that your sensitive data might be out on the web like your passwords, remediate that immediately. You can find out if you have sensitive information leaked by visiting this site, Have I Been Pwned?
Change your passwords to be as strong as the service will allow and protect yourself from identity theft by enrolling in a protection program like Lifelock or Experian. And please. Please, please, please don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
Check out our guide to more secure password protection.
Spam emails often seek to infect your computer with malware. Keep your antivirus up to date and running as another layer of defense.
And, finally, share this article with everyone. The main line of defense against these types of attacks is end user education. Send it to your friends and your coworkers!