This month we've received a very sophisticated, sleek looking phishing email that is definitely going to get some bites. Luckily, we’ve deconstructed this email to show you the red flags that you need to keep an eye out for.
This scam was so convincing, they even convinced one of us to click a link. Luckily, by the time they got to the login screen, they realised that they had been duped. The reason this phishing scam was so effective? It’s to do with domains, and subdomains.
What is a domain?
A domain is essentially the part of the web address that has the name of the site your visiting. So ‘google.com’ - ‘google’ is the domain. The domain is always the word that is adjacent to the last ‘.’. The part that follows is called the domain name extension, which sometimes gives you a clue about the site; ‘.edu’ for example, is going to be educational; ‘.uk’ specifies the country.
What is a subdomain?
In comparison, a subdomain is the part before the domain name, and can point you somewhere a little different. A good example is ‘docs.google.com’. In this case, ‘google’ is still the domain, but the web address is pointing us to a specific app within Google, the Documents. So, ‘docs’ is the subdomain. It provides us with a little more information about the location, whilst still telling us that the application is hosted by Google.
What does all this have to do with phishing?
One of the great little tricks that we can use to decipher whether we’re looking at a real email from a legitimate source, or a phishing email from someone who wants to steal our information, is by looking at the links in the email. By hovering over, rather than clicking on the links, we can see where they’re going to take us.
This is really useful for phishing emails, because if an email pertains to be from Amazon, and they’re asking us to click a link which says ‘Go to your account’, when we hover over the link we’d expect to see amazon.co.uk. But, if when we hover over the link it’s actually sending us somewhere else - like givemeyourbankingdetails.com, that’s a good indicator we’re being duped.
The phishing email that reeled us in
The email that we received pertained to be from SendGrid - an email provider that we do expect to receive correspondence from. Below is a legitimate email from the real SendGrid.
And below, here is the phishing email that one of our team received;
As you can see, it’s a pretty close match! At first glance, everything seems legitimate. For those of us who are very fast readers, this is probably convincing enough to get us to click a link.
Which is exactly what the recipient did! The only thing that held them up was the login screen they were presented with - something didn’t look quite right. They then realised that this was a phishing email in disguise. But is there any way to figure it out without clicking one of the links?
We hovered over the links in the email - and really, everything checks out! You’d expect to see these kinds of links in an email sent out by a company like SendGrid - they’re pretty lengthy, and look to point us somewhere on the Send Grid website. But let's have a closer look at that domain name.
What’s in a name?
If you look closer at the string of incoherent numbers and letters, you’ll be able to spot ‘email.sendgrid-com.click’ as well as ‘deecon24.de’. The last ‘.’ is just before the domain name extension ‘de’ - meaning the part before the ‘.’ is the domain name. This isn’t ‘sendgrid’ - it’s ‘deecon24’ (which sounds far less reputable). This means that the link isn’t sending us somewhere on SendGrid’s website at all. It is absolutely a phishing email.
I can’t get my head around domain names!
The instructions are a little confusing - should we be contacting our system administrator? Surely if it’s been suspended, we can’t access it through the login page? Or do we need to click a link to say it’s been suspended in error? Also, if you take a closer look at the SendGrid logo, you’ll notice that it’s cropped a little oddly - the logo has been cut off at the bottom. All of these are good indicators of a phishing email.
Transcendit’s top tip - slow down!
These little indicators are only really noticeable when you slow down, and look for them. The best way to protect yourself against a phishing email is to make sure you’re reading emails carefully. If in doubt, get another pair of eyes (ideally, call up your IT support team!) before you click any links.
In this case, it would be easy to check whether our SendGrid account had been suspended without going through the link in the email - if you’re on the fence, just head directly to the website yourself! Slow down, read carefully, and if you get one of these in your inbox, send it straight to Spam.
Tweet us @TranscenditUK