These 20 email subject lines should rouse your suspicion

By now you will be aware that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented ample opportunities for cybercriminals.

While there have always been risks with cybercriminals prowling the halls of the internet, the increase in attack surfaces thanks to many more people working from home has increased the risk significantly.

This means that constant vigilance is required to mitigate the risk and you can help by being cognisant of what sort of attacks cybercriminals are launching.

One of those attacks is phishing in which an attacker tries to convince you to hand over sensitive information whether it be via email or over the phone.

As regards the latter, cybersecurity awareness training firm, KnowBe4 has published its Q3 2020 report on the most-clicked phishing emails.

“During this pandemic, we’ve seen malicious hackers preying on users’ biggest weak points by sending messages that instill fear, uncertainty and doubt,” said chief executive officer at KnowBe4, Stu Sjouwerman.

“Our Q3 report confirms that coronavirus-related subject lines have remained their most promising attack type, as pandemic conditions weaken judgment, and lead to potentially detrimental clicks,” the CEO added.

KnowBe4 used thousands of simulated phishing test email subject lines to determine the most popular attempts at getting somebody to hand over important information. Perhaps more importantly however, the firm examined emails in the wild as well. These “in-the-wild” emails were spotted by users and reported to IT departments.

The following email subject lines were spotted in the wild:

  • Microsoft: View your Microsoft 365 Business Basic invoice
  • HR: Pandemic Policy Update
  • IT: Remote Access Infrastructure
  • Facebook: Account Warning
  • Check your passport expiration date
  • TeleMed Appointment Reminder
  • Twitter: Confirm your identity
  • Apple: Take part in our iPhone 12 trial and enter for the chance to win a FREE iPhone12
  • Exchange ActiveSync service disabled for [[email]]
  • HR: Benefit Report

The simulated tests included the following subject lines:

  • Payroll Deduction Form
  • Please review the leave law requirements
  • Password Check Required Immediately
  • Required to read or complete: “COVID-19 Safety Policy”
  • COVID-19 Remote Work Policy Update
  • Vacation Policy Update
  • Scheduled Server Maintenance — No Internet Access
  • Your team shared “COVID 19 Amendment and Emergency leave pay policy” with you via OneDrive
  • Official Quarantine Notice
  • COVID-19: Return To Work Guidelines and Requirements

In recent weeks we have also noted a number of emails that look like the one below.

These emails, what with the heavily pixelated Amazon logo, strange email address and impossibly bad grammar are clear signs that this is a phishing attempt from a cybercriminal.

In the last month we’ve received emails like this from “Amazon” and “Netflix”.

Should you receive an email like this, or indeed any email asking to verify information, we urge you to head directly to that website instead of clicking the link in the email. Should this be an “internal business email” contact the person directly and ask them to verify that they sent the email and are in fact requesting this information.

Unfortunately for us all we need a bit of healthy paranoia to avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]


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