“Out of Office for the Holidays” Messages Increases Risk of Spear Phishing Attacks

Many of us will be out of office for the holidays as the end of the month quickly approaches. With this, many professionals will be using out of office email messages. These email messages are just what cyber-scammers are hoping to receive so they can create spear phishing attacks against your small business!

What is spear phishing

Out of Office Messages

If you are out of the office it is a normal office procedure to set up an auto-reply email. Typically, these messages state when you will be out of the office and when your date of return. They may even contain a message suggesting to contact one of your colleagues should an emergency arise.

Spear Phishing: The Dangers of Out of Office Messages

Although out of office messages are typically needed, they may not need to contain a great amount of detail. ATG IT for business and Armorblox offer great advice on creating these messages. Experts suggest using a generic email address as a point of contact instead of other colleagues. Additionally, you may want to create both an internal and external away message.

Cyber-scammers will be working over time this holiday season by scouting small businesses who they attack. Most of these attacks will come in the form of spear phishing, which is a phishing campaign targeted towards a specific small business and its employees. Out of office messages allow them to create personalized phishing emails that can be very convincing. Here are a few methods to combat spear phishing:

How to Combat Spear Phishing

  • Do not put the dates you are away or your return date! Create a more generic statement like “I am unable to access emails at this time.”
  • Do not put a specific colleague’s name as a point of contact, but use a more generic business email if possible. 
  • Setup both an internal and external away message. Be more specific in the internal message and keep the external message more vague.

Stay safe this holiday season while you enjoy your time away from work by implementing the above tips.

For more information on cybersecurity check out Small Business, Big Threat!