We talk a lot about phishing emails. After all, this is what this site is all about (teaching how to recognize and deal with them). Thing is, we receive so many (ok, maybe not me, which is why I keep asking for you to send me some), we may start labelling any suspicious emails as phishing. That would be myopic of me; messages trying to con people, spam included, predate emails. And, spam started to pollute mailboxes everywhere as soon as the internet stopped being the exclusive domain of researchers and started being used by normal people like you and me to share cat pictures and animations of dancing hamsters. It took decades after that before phishing was a thing.
In homage to its long and notorious history, and to the fact I received the emails in question earlier today (and did not have a good phishing email to talk about), today we will talk about another kind of unwanted email: good ol’ spam.
In the image above I show that we have not one but two spam emails. And they were sent within 10 minutes from each other. Here is the text version of the emails:.
From: fake account To: Clueless Phish Date: Jun 23 2023 16:23 Subject: Re: UNIX Users List Hi, I would like to know if you are interested in reaching out to UNIX Users List? We also have software users of : Oracle Linux, Ubuntu Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, IBM AIX and many more upon response. List includes: Business Name, Client Name, Title, Verified Email Address, Physical Address, Phone Number, Fax Number, Web Page, Industry, Sic Code, Revenue Size, Employee Size, LinkedIn etc… Please let me know your targeted criteria by filling the empty spots below. Criteria: Software? (For Example: UNIX, Oracle Linux, Ubuntu Linux etc...) Job Title? (For Example: CEO, COO, CFO, VP, Directors Etc... Whom do you want to contact) Geography? (For Example: United States, United Kingdom, Canada etc. From which country you needed) I could then come back to you with the enriched contacts availability & pricing. Regards, Fake Account - IT Data Coordinator To Opt-Out, please answer with Remove in the Subject Line
How to know it is a phishing email
First of all, both emails have the same content, word by word, and differ only by the email they were supposedly sent from (two different domains). If that does not say suspicious, I do not know what will.
As mentioned earlier, they were sent within 10 minutes from each other. Just this and the previous bullet is enough to say “not the kind of email I want to click on.”
Subject:starts with a
Re:as some spam filters will assume it is a reply to an ongoing thread, and should not rank it as malicious or at least suspicious. I do not know how effective this is nowadays, but from a phisher/spammer standpoint, doing this is cheap insurance.
They could not be bothered with a proper salutation. That would mean they are just machining gun everywhere and hoping for the best.
Their use of grammar is typical of badly put together phishing, spam, and other malicious email: atrocious. If you just look at the items under Criteria you may think “it almost makes sense” but still will scratch your head. This spammer decided to go one level up: I present you la creme de la creme:
I could then come back to you with the enriched contacts availability & pricing.
I have not seen the butchering of the English language done so superbly as here. My ears are still ringing?
Why are you talking about spam in a phishing awareness website?
While the email is just spam, what comes after that if you do reply to them asking for more info may lead to identity theft and other activities better placed under the phishing umbrella. Not the email, but what follows it.
The way you handle them – not clicking or replying to it – is the same for both.