Monday 22 December 2014

Phishing: Message Options

Many people are investing lots of time and energy in pretending to be who they're not through e-mail: looking for Internet users who will give them sign-on details, account numbers, PINs and so on that they can use to strip bank accounts or run up unpayable credit card debts. 

No single method will protect - in the end, you have to be suspicious of any request for personal details or even opinions.  How many of us have answered a phone call that was apparently a survey and ended up being asked for details that could open us up to further unwanted phone calls or given details about our address, postcode or buying habits? 

If you use a Windows computer, you may also have Microsoft Office.  This is a fantastic tool for organising your e-mail, but the latest version has made it harder to look closely at incoming messages before you actually open them.  The trick is to look at the Message Options and see if the addresses in the mail headers actually look anything like the apparent sender. 

In Outlook 2003 and later versions, it used to be possible to right-click on a message in the Inbox and look at the headers directly.  The latest version, Outlook 2013 (also part of Office 365) doesn't allow this unless you first do a little customisation.  Here's how to do it.

I haven't yet found a way to restore the right-click function but you can still use it if you customise the Quick Access Toolbar of Outlook 2013.  That's the very top of the window, where the Outlook application icon, the Send/Receive All button and the Undo button can be found.  It looks like this:

Right-click on the ribbon (that's the feature with the tab names and icons just below the Quick Access Toolbar).  You'll be offered the option to customise the Quick Access Toolbar.  Set the top drop-down box to Commands Not in the Ribbon.  It looks like this:

Select Message Options and then click Add, and move it up one place using the buttons on the far right.  When you click OK, the Quick Access Toolbar should look like this:

When you receive a message that looks suspicious - as examples, a bill you weren't expecting, a receipt for a charity donation, a request to confirm your details, a notification of a failed payment, in your Inbox, select but don't open the message.  Then click on the fourth icon from the left at the top of the window (Message Options).   If when you scroll down, you see evidence of spoofing of addresses, just delete the message - don't open it, and certainly not its attachments.  Here's an example of a spoof e-mail with some of the tell-tale signs:

This was supposed to be from NatWest Bank.  Why would it send an e-mail from a address, relayed through  And then why would its From address be  Who?

Use this tip and your own intelligence to cut down your risk of being hacked by evil people.