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What to do with suspicious emails, and other cybersecurity tips

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

An email arrived in your DIT office email this morning, and there’s something that doesn’t quite ring “true” about it.

It’s from a fellow and trusted employee downtown, but maybe the email comes with an odd attachment you weren’t expecting. The message itself is kind of off: perhaps it has language or misspellings that are atypical of your friend; maybe the email is asking you to open the attachment in a way that just doesn’t feel right.

You call your friend, but he’s out of the office.

What do you do? Attach the suspicious email to another email and send it to report.spam@nc.gov. Your email will be reviewed by an expert here at DIT and will be either cleared or flagged as spam or worse, a email containing a virus or ransomware.

Here is exactly what to do:

Compose a new email to report.spam@nc.gov. Your subject line should be something similar to “suspicious email.”

Click on “Insert” in your Outlook toolbar, and then select “Outlook Item.” Then, simply double-click the suspicious email.

You can also choose to directly “Forward as Attachment.” This option is located by clicking “More,” located next to “Forward” in the Outlook “Home” toolbar.

Send. You have just forwarded your email as an attachment.

Remember: Never click on links in the suspicious email, and never enter your email address and/or password if requested. If you have even the smallest doubt, send it to report.spam@nc.gov.

These steps are incredibly important. The ransomware that nearly shut down Mecklenburg County’s government was launched by a county employee innocently opening a well-disguised email.

Protect yourself at home and in your DIT workplace by following these other cybersecurity tips….

  • Use up-to-date antivirus software.
  • Do not open email from unknown or suspicious sources.
  • Use hard-to-guess passwords. Or rather, “#@rdt00Ge55 P55wrds.” G3T !t? Gud.
  • Use a firewall on your computer.
  • Update your computer’s operating system and applications regularly.
  • Shut down your computer when you are not using it.
  • Back up your computer regularly.
  • Remember: Your cell phones and tablets are also computers. Everything that applies above applies to your mobile devices.
  • Remember: You are always a target, and the stakes are incredibly high. Don’t think, “It won’t happen to me.”