Spot Email

How to Spot a Phishing Email (Part 1)

Cybercriminals have been increasingly targeting the healthcare industry, and phishing is one of the most common ways that they try to gain access to healthcare networks and sensitive patient data. Recognizing and avoiding phishing emails is crucial to protecting patient data and maintaining the safety and integrity of healthcare systems.

What is phishing?

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), phishing is a type of fraudulent communication that targets individuals and organizations by sending an email or text appearing to be from a well-known source. Cybercriminals use phishing attacks in an attempt to gain sensitive personal information such as passwords, account numbers, credit card information, or social security numbers. For healthcare professionals, this could mean compromising patient data, which is a severe breach of trust and a violation of privacy laws.

How to Spot a Phishing Email?

1)     Check the sender’s email address- Carefully examine the sender’s email address. Cybercriminals often use email addresses that appear similar to legitimate sources but contain subtle misspellings or variations. Look for any irregularities in the domain or sender’s name.

2)     Beware of urgent or threatening language- Phishing emails often create a sense of urgency or fear to pressure recipients into taking immediate action. Healthcare professionals should be cautious of emails that claim a patient’s life is at risk or demand immediate responses.

3)     Examine the email content– Phishing emails often contain grammatical errors, misspellings, or awkward language usage. Legitimate organizations typically have strict quality control over their communications, so errors should raise suspicion.

4)     Be cautious with attachments-Avoid opening email attachments from unknown or unexpected sources. Malicious attachments can contain malware or viruses that can compromise your computer and network.

5)     Verify the request for personal or sensitive information– Legitimate organizations, including healthcare facilities, should never request sensitive information like social security numbers or login credentials via email. If in doubt, contact the organization directly through a trusted channel to confirm the request’s legitimacy.

6)     Look for inconsistencies– Pay attention to inconsistencies in the email, such as unexpected changes in formatting, logos, or branding. Cybercriminals may try to mimic official correspondence, but small discrepancies may give them away.

7)     Check the salutation- Legitimate organizations often address recipients by their full name. Be cautious if the email uses generic greetings like “Dear Customer” or “Hello User.”

8)     Use email filtering and security tools– Employ robust email filtering and security software to help identify and block phishing attempts automatically. These tools can be a valuable layer of protection.

9)     Educate yourself and your team- Ensure that all healthcare professionals on your team are aware of phishing risks and know how to recognize and report suspicious emails. Regular training and awareness programs are essential in maintaining cybersecurity.

Be on the lookout for Part 2 of this How To Spot a Phishing Email series where we’ll provide examples of a Phishing Email and what to do if you suspect Phishing.

Have questions regarding your HIPAA, OSHA, or FWA Program? Give the experts at MedSafe a call. Let us provide and maintain your programs for you, so you can focus on your patients.

Toll-free: (888) MED-SAFE


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