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1 Jun 2023

An Ops Manager’s Guide to spotting dangerous spam emails

In today’s digital landscape, cyber threats continue to evolve, and one of the most prevalent and deceptive methods used by attackers is phishing emails. As an Operations Manager, it is crucial to understand what a phishing email looks like, the risks, and the proactive measures to protect your organisation.

This article provides insights into dangerous ‘phishing’ emails and practical strategies to safeguard your company’s sensitive information, reputation, and financial well-being.

Understanding Phishing and Social Engineering

Phishing emails are fraudulent messages designed to deceive recipients into taking specific actions or divulging sensitive information. These attacks often employ social engineering.

Social engineering is a manipulative technique used by criminals to exploit human psychology. It involves manipulating emotions, trust, and authority to trick people.

Spotting a dangerous phishing email

Here are some specific examples of social engineering tactics used in phishing attacks…

Urgency and fear

Attackers create a sense of urgency or fear to prompt immediate action from recipients. They may claim that an account will be suspended, payment is overdue, or a security breach has occurred. Instilling a sense of panic, they aim to override logical thinking and encourage quick responses without careful evaluation.

Example: “URGENT: Your Company Account is Compromised – Immediate Action Required!”

Authority impersonation

Phishing emails may impersonate authoritative figures or well-known organisations to gain trust. By posing as a senior executive, a bank representative, or a popular service provider, attackers exploit the recipient’s willingness to comply with requests from perceived higher-ups or reputable sources.

Example: “CEO Request: Transfer Funds to the Following Account ASAP”

Email spoofing

Attackers often spoof email addresses to make it appear that the email originates from a legitimate source. They mimic reputable organisations’ branding, formatting, and language to deceive recipients into believing the email is genuine.

Example: “Amazon Security Alert: Your Account Has Been Suspended”


Phishing emails may include personal information obtained from data breaches or public sources to create a sense of legitimacy. By addressing recipients by their names or referencing specific account details, attackers attempt to establish trust and make the email appear more credible.

Example: “John, Your Subscription Renewal is Due – Confirm Payment Now”

Baiting with rewards or offers

Some phishing emails entice recipients with offers of rewards, discounts, or exclusive deals to lure them into clicking on malicious links or providing personal information. The promise of something desirable can override caution and make individuals more susceptible to falling for the scam.

Example: “Congratulations! Your colleagues nominated you for an award. Click to see your award.”

Emotional manipulation

Phishing emails may exploit emotions to manipulate recipients into taking desired actions. They may invoke curiosity, sympathy, or concern, tugging at the recipient’s heartstrings to elicit a response.

Example: “Save This Child’s Life – Donate Now to Make a Difference”

Sense of familiarity

Attackers may mimic communication styles, logos, or templates used within an organisation or by popular service providers to create a sense of familiarity. By imitating the organisation’s official correspondence, they attempt to lower recipients’ guard and increase the likelihood of compliance.

Example: “IT Helpdesk: Password Reset Required – Follow Instructions Below”

Protecting your organisation

There are some critical steps any organisation needs to take to fully protect themselves. The first is implementing comprehensive cybersecurity training for all employees. Educate them about the risks associated with phishing emails, how to identify suspicious messages, and the importance of not clicking on unknown links or sharing sensitive information.

Educate your employees, fortify your email systems, and prioritise regular updates and training

Simple, but very effective.

Deploying advanced email filtering systems will also help block known phishing email sources and flag suspicious emails. This can significantly reduce the number of phishing emails reaching employees’ inboxes, minimising the risk of successful attacks.

Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) across all systems and applications. This is normally included in most product licences, so it’s essentially free. This adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide multiple forms of identification, such as a password and a unique code sent to their mobile device.

Ops Managers should also establish a culture where employees feel comfortable reporting suspected phishing emails to the IT department. Prompt reporting allows quick response and mitigation, preventing potential data breaches or financial losses.

Your IT Department (or MSP) should update all software, applications, and operating systems with the latest security patches. Attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in outdated software to launch phishing attacks.

It’s also important to develop a comprehensive incident response plan to guide your organisation’s actions in the event of a successful phishing attack. Define roles and responsibilities, establish communication channels, and conduct regular drills to ensure preparedness.

Due diligence when selecting and vetting third-party vendors also plugs a gap. Ensure they have robust security measures and adhere to industry best practices.


As a Chief Operations Officer, you are critical in safeguarding your organisation against phishing attacks. By understanding the tactics attackers use and implementing proactive security measures, you can minimise the risk of falling victim to phishing emails.

Educate your employees, fortify your email systems, and prioritise regular updates and training. Remember, a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity is vital to protecting your organisation’s sensitive information, reputation, and financial stability in today’s digital age.


Spot phishing emails

Teach your staff to spot phishing emails

On average, 35% of staff will click a phishing email. Ouch!
But after six months of phishing awareness training, that drops to 16%. And after a year it goes down to 4%.

To find out what percentage of your staff would click a phishing email, sign up for our free phishing email test.

Graham Smith

By Graham Smith