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More Than One Way to Skin a Cat

More Than One Way to Skin a Cat

One of the many internet rabbit holes available for exploration is the origin of expressions. A cursory examination of the above expression yields some interesting information. From this site we learn:

The version more than one way to skin a cat seems to have nothing directly to do with the American English term to skin a cat, which is to perform a gymnastic exercise that involves passing the feet and legs between the arms while hanging by the hands from a horizontal bar. That name may have been suggested by the action of turning an animal’s skin inside out as part of the process of removing it from the body.

We also find out the variations from the last 150 plus years include the following:

“there are more ways of killing a cat than choking it with cream”
• “there are more ways of killing a cat than by choking it with butter”
• “there are more ways of killing a dog than choking him with pudding”
• And the earliest version … 1678, “there are more ways to kill a dog than hanging”.

Cyber Attacks Take Many Forms

So what does this have to do with security? Just as the phrase indicates that there is more than one way to accomplish something and has been expressed in various ways (at the expense of cats and dogs), attacks by the bad guys take various forms. This variety requires you and your employees to be alert for all the variations when looking at email.

When I do security awareness training, one of the main points I want students to take away is to NEVER EVER click on a link with out hovering over it first. (Long press on most phones accomplishes the same thing). Here is an example of why: If you hover over the link you see one weakness of HTML formatted email, which most people use. You can display text that is very different from the actual link. This is one common way phishers try to get users to click their way to a compromised web site.

Be Careful of Shortened Links and QR Codes

How about this one? The email includes a link that looks like this: . If you hover over it you see the same thing, nothing you can identify. The real URL is There may be valid reasons for using short URLs. You may want to share a very long link that won’t fit in a text or tweet. However, whenever you get an email or a text with a short URL, be very cautious. This is a tool for phishers to get you to go somewhere you don’t want to be. There are websites that can decode these URLs for you, but ask yourself some questions before you even waste time decoding it. If the email is supposedly from Aunt Sally, would she even know how to shorten a URL? If the email is supposedly from a business partner, do they normally use short URLs or is this a first?

How about getting an email that says you have a document waiting and you need to scan this QR code to retrieve it? How do you know where you are going? You can’t hover over it to see what the URL is. (The URL is by the way). Again there are sites that can decode these for you, but ask yourself some questions. Why did the sender use a QR code? Have they ever done this before? You see these on packages all the time but email correspondence is not the normal place to see these. If you do, BEWARE!

Stealing Login Credentials

Phishers are constantly changing and improving their methods.  Now, they are creating fake login screens; Let’s say you get an email and click on the link in it, before you hover over it to see where you are going. In many cases all is not lost. Many times you are directed to a landing page which is going to ask for your credentials. If you happen to think “Wait, before I enter my credentials, let me verify that I am on the right web page” and you look at the URL in the address bar, you might notice that you are on instead of Hopefully at that point you would close the browser tab and delete the email. To help get around this saving action on the part of the user, the bad guys have come up with a way to generate a login screen on your computer. There is no URL displayed because you are looking at a popup window that lives on your computer. If you enter your credentials on this page, they are sent to the phisher and you get directed to another fake page. See this article for more details.

Think Before You Click!

As phishers get more creative, it puts the burden on us as users to be more alert and more careful. We need to think carefully before responding to emails, as more and more care is being put into crafting something that will fool us. Sometimes the emails rely on the fact that we get lots of emails in a day and so might not spend as much time (or attention) as we should. Sometimes they rely on al lot of research to make a convincing fake. In any case, be on the watch so whether you are a dog or a cat, you don’t get skinned, choked, hung, or scammed.  And call Ashton Technology Solutions at 216 397-4080 if you aren’t certain what you’re clicking!

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