What are the key differences between spam and phishing?

Spam and Phishing

What are the key differences between spam and phishing?


In the current digital age, it’s vital to be aware of the actions that a malignant actor can take to damage your company by obtaining sensitive information.

Emails are one of the most vulnerable points of your company. With many different attacks and vulnerabilities around which involve social engineering, even a simple click on a link within an email could cause significant damage. However, some methods are more dangerous than others.

In this article, we’re going to go over the difference between spam emails and phishing emails, and how you can protect your business from them.

What is Spam Email?

Spam email (or junk mail) is a common type of email. This type of email is simply a form of mass marketing, which is used to advertise and sell a service (whether it be a legitimate service or a scam) to a large number of people with ease.

Email spammers tend to acquire their victims’ email addresses from a wide range of sources and constantly bulk-send advertisements to their list of addresses, with minimal regard to who’s specifically on there.

Spam emails commonly advertise adult websites, gambling websites, and insurance websites. These are usually scams, though your email inbox can easily pick up on this and filter them into the Spam’ folder automatically, so you don’t have to manually delete them.

However, even newsletters and other opt-in emails from legitimate places can be considered spam. Generally, spam is just unwanted/unsolicited emails, and there’s nothing inherently malicious about another email saying that there’s a sale at a clothes shop even if they can be annoying.

However, Phishing is much more dangerous.

What is a Phishing Email?

A phishing email is an email that is designed to intentionally deceive the recipient into giving access to an account or service. This social engineering scam is one of the most dangerous online attacks, as it takes advantage of unsuspecting or vulnerable people first and foremost.

Unlike low-effort spam mail, these emails are designed to trick unsuspecting victims into handing over sensitive information such as passwords, bank details, and (in the worst case) administrative access to a business system.

The key to phishing scams is that they look legitimate at first glance and are specifically designed to trigger the recipient to panic. A bank phishing scam may inform the recipient that their account is withdrawn, or some suspicious activity has taken place with their finances. It will then redirect the victim to a fake login portal to try to get them to enter their bank login details.

These emails are easy to spot to the trained eye, but even those who are experts can be tricked. For example, famous cybersecurity expert and scam exposer Jim Browning fell victim to a very realistic-looking phishing attack that temporarily restricted access to his whole YouTube channel.

This video is his recounting of the scam, and is a great example of the types of high-level phishing attacks that you may encounter:

Key Differences Between Spam and Phishing

With these attacks increasingly difficult to identify as time goes on, it’s important to educate yourself on how to stop them. To do so, you’ll need to know the key differences between general spam and phishing.

  • Spam emails will often appear (and often will be) benign, but phishing emails will use specific language to create a sense of urgency.
  • Where spam emails will often be low quality, phishing emails will be more sophisticated and will look realistic to attempt to deceive the recipient.
  • The layout of the email and the email address are aspects of a phishing email that will be tailored to dupe the victim.

Otherwise, there isn’t much of a difference between the two, as phishing is generally considered to be a type of spam email. However, while spam is usually annoying and harmless, phishing is harmful and dangerous.

How to Protect Your Business

  1. Recognise the Signs of a Phishing Attack


Phishing attacks will often have some tell-tale signs that will be able to signal to you that they’re coming from a malicious source.

  • Check the email domain and use Google to verify the domain of the company that the email is from’. Phishing emails will always try their hardest to emulate a real company. A recent phishing scam used the email address Admin@LIoydsBank.com to masquerade as Lloyds Bank. In this instance, the second L’ in the word Lloyds’ was replaced by an upper-case I’.
  • The emails will often visually look off. It may be slightly different to legitimate comms from said company. Trust your gut here if something seems off, it usually is.
  • Check for misspelt words and mis-entered URLs. Any mistake in the email is a huge red flag for a phishing attack.
  • Look at the language of the email. Is it what would usually be sent by the company trying to contact you? Are they being pushy? Again, use your judgement here.

Generally, when using your judgement, be suspicious of any email you receive in general. Make sure to do the correct research before taking action.

  1. Ensure Company-Wide Training and Security Compliance

It’s great if you know how to identify spam and phishing emails. But, if your employees don’t, they could fall victim to an attack without knowing.

  • Ensure that each employee is trained on phishing and cybersecurity.
  • Create company-wide rules on risk factors such as external links and online forms.
  • Restrict the ability of employees to download files from unauthorised sources.
  • Stress the importance of good cybersecurity practices throughout your workplace.

By ensuring that everyone is prepared and knowledgeable about the risks of phishing, you can protect your company.

  1. Implement System-Wide Measures to Protect Your Company

Your business should be as prepared as possible to identify risky emails, but humans make mistakes. Sometimes, you’ll click a bad link by accident. Ensuring that there are systems in place for this is important.

Implement an email security solution which blocks phishing emails before they reach an employee’s inbox.

  • Ensure that there’s good system-wide antivirus software.
  • Back up your important files and data regularly, to restore your system in the event of an antivirus account.
  • Enforce good password hygiene to ensure that breached passwords can’t be re-utilised.

Need a hand? Extech Cloud can help!

With the looming threat of phishing and spam, knowing how to protect yourself is vital for the success of any business. Knowing the key risk factors and threats that could put your business in danger is important, and acknowledging these risks is the best way to stop them. The experts at Extech Cloud can help you to implement securities and strengthen your company’s vulnerability against social engineering attacks.

Are you a small to medium sized business in Burgess Hill, Crawley, Haywards Heath, Brighton, or anywhere across Sussex or Surrey? Our experts are here to help and can easily make sure that your company has every base covered.

Get in touch with the Extech Cloud team today to find out more and speak with a cloud specialist.

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