Illustration: Adobe Stock

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It’s 2021. The beginning of a year or season means the start of new hacker trends. Malware has always been a tool used by hackers, but how you take the bait is what changes with new tricks every year. If you receive an email with a document attached, do not open it! Wait until you have checked the authenticity of the email. When a stranger asks you to download a document, it might have malware attached to it. When malware is attached to documents, it can harm your computer and steal confidential information and your personal credentials.

The most recent form of malware uses online forms such as a “contact us” form. Even with the captcha included, which is supposed to prevent spam, hackers can infiltrate the system. The most recent trend includes a form of accusation, causing the recipient to panic or become anxious upon opening the email. The recent accusation uses copyrighted images found on legitimate websites so that you might deem them as valid and click on their links and attached files. For example, we have seen spam email messages impersonating trusted individuals or businesses like the DMV.

Before you click on anything, step away from the computer and pause before taking any action. If you have doubt or uncertainty, talk to your manager or IT department so they can review whether the message is malicious. When in doubt, always ask for help. 

Example of an Anxiety Email

Here is an example of a copyright malware trick that was actually sent to one of our own employees: 

The email message reads:

“Hi there!

This is John and I am a qualified illustrator.

I was surprised, mildly speaking, when I found my images at your website. 

If you use a copyrighted image without an owner’s license, you need to be aware that you could be sued by the copyright holder.

It is illegitimate to use stolen images and it’s so low!

Check out this document with the links to my images you used at www.groffnetworks.com and my earlier publication to get evidence of my ownership. Download it right now to check it out for yourself!

*Gave a Malicious link to a google drive*

If you don’t delete images mentioned from the document above within the next few days, I’ll file a complaint on you to your hosting provider informing them that my copyrights have been severely infringed and I’m trying to protect my intellectual property.

And if it doesn’t help, for damn sure I am going to take legal actions against you! And I will not bother myself to let you know of it in advance.”

When sending a phishing email, hackers may ask that you click on a link to direct you to their fake website. Before clicking on the link, hover your mouse over the link to see the website’s URL. Usually, you can see a misspelled word or other grammatical errors. These URLs can be different from what you were originally expecting the website to be. So, always double-check before you double-click.  

Phishing email messages demand a call to action, telling you to take a look and click on their files or links. If you receive an email from a stranger that asks you to open up a link or attached document, do not open it! When malware is attached to documents, it means hackers can harm your computer and steal your information and personal credentials.  

As tricky as cybercriminals are, we at Groff NetWorks see them every day. We implement phishing training for our employees and clients and help businesses and individuals affected by phishing. We consider ourselves to be Caring, Responsive, Friendly, and Honest; those are our company values and our recipe for helping our users — you and your employees! — not take the bait.