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Can you smell a phish?

Learn how to recognize the different forms of phishing and the visual signs of a phishing message

October 14, 2022 — 

Cyber Security Awareness Month is an important time to reflect, as individuals and as an organization, on how we can protect ourselves and our loved ones online. Phishing is one of the most common cyber threats affecting Canadians. That’s why we want to help our university community learn more about phishing and how to protect ourselves and the people in our lives. 

Knowing how to spot a phishing message can be difficult if you aren’t sure what signs to look for. After all, cyber criminals are skilled at tricking their victims into giving up sensitive information. 

That’s why the best way to fight phishing is to arm yourself with knowledge. Understanding phishing and the signs to look for will help you to protect your personal data from would-be cyber criminals. 

Different forms of phishing 

Most people are familiar with phishing emails or messages. But there are other types of phishing scams that are worth knowing about: 

Smishing is a phishing attempt through SMS (text message). 

Spear phishing is a hyper-targeted phishing attempt. In spear phishing scams, a message is designed to sound like it’s coming from a source you know personally. 

Whaling is a phishing attempt aimed at a high-profile target. For example, they might target a senior executive or other high-ranking official in an organization or government department. 

Spoofing involves creating a fake website to get someone to share their personal information. 

To learn more about phishing and other cyber threats, check out 

Visual signs of a phishing message 

The best way to protect yourself against phishing is knowing how to recognize the signs and being cautious any time you receive a suspicious message. Some visual signs to watch out for include: 

Typos, including incorrect sender email addresses, links that don’t go to official websites and spelling or grammar errors beyond the occasional typo. 

Unprofessional design such as incorrect or blurry logos, image-only emails and emails with poor formatting. 

Suspicious attachments like receiving attachments that you didn’t ask for, weird file names and uncommon file types (like an .exe). 

Other phishing signs may take more time to identify, because they aren’t always obvious. They include: 

Urgent or threatening language 
Real emergencies don’t happen over email. Cyber criminals will often pressure you to respond quickly by using threatening language. For example, they might tell you that they’re going to close your account or take legal action against you. 

Requests for sensitive information 
Most legitimate organizations like the government or your bank, would never ask you for personal information over email or text message. Be suspicious of links directing you to login pages and requests to update your account or financial information. 

Anything too good to be true 
Winning a contest is unlikely but winning a contest that you didn’t enter is impossible. Cyber criminals may send you suspicious offers, like winnings from giveaways you never entered or prizes you must pay to receive. 

Cyber Security Awareness Month activities 

To learn more about phishing and other cyber threats, visit our Cyber Security Awareness Month booth in Brodie Centre on October 25 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and in University Centre on October 27 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.  

Don’t miss your chance to win! Join the #UMcybersecurityawareness Month Scavenger Hunt and get entered to win an iPhone 14 Pro Max and more. Find out how to play at:  

Remember: Cyber Security Starts with You!  



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