Still phishing: those ‘phishing scam’ alerts aren’t going away, and for good reason

(Emily Kupp/Special to The Leader)

SETH MICHAEL MEYER

Assistant News Editor

Since the beginning of the Fall 2017 semester, the Information Security Office (ISO) has been sending out emails en masse alerting students about the various “phishing scams” that have been circulating the internet. All across the globe, people have become more and more dependent on internet and technology, and this facilitates the 21st century art of email scams. But what are these phishing scams and what danger do they pose to college campuses?

As Microsoft simply puts it, “Phishing email messages . . . are designed to steal money,” specifically by posing as a trustworthy entity. In the latest advisory from ISO, they warn students who are due to collect financial aid refunds.

“The scam starts with an email that mimics advisory alerts sent by the IT department,” ISO reports. “Students are tricked into entering their email and password information, and then this information is used to change their direct deposit.”

This act of deceiving the internet user to obtain information is known as “social engineering” and, according to Benjamin Hartung, the information security officer at SUNY Fredonia, it is what helps target college students.

The Pew Research Center reports that 98 percent of undergraduates and 99 percent of graduate students are connected to the internet. With the necessity of the internet in college life, Hartung and the Information Security Office has been trying to spread awareness through emails and posters across campus.

Hartung warns that phishing scams have been on the rise with more and more people connected to the internet — 2017 topping off at 3.5 billion people (Statista).

Hartung said that one of the tactics to prevent these scams is Fredonia email security gateways. These gateways seek to monitor emails sent to an organization in order to filter the unwanted emails that could potentially be malicious. But the students of Fredonia are not entirely safe from these scams.

Ann Burns, chief of University Police at Fredonia, said in an email that there have only been three recent reports, including one victim who lost a few hundred dollars. Despite a relative low number of reports, some people like Hartung of the ISO, have cited an increase in scams infiltrating the campus. If someone comes across a suspicious email, the Internet Security Office provides a few warning signs that the email is a product of social engineering:

Sent from email address that doesn’t correspond to the department it claims it is from.

May contain spelling and grammatical errors.

May implore receiver to take “urgent action.”

If someone believes their account is compromised by a phishing scam, Hartung suggested a very specific course of action: it is urgent to change passwords on major accounts and monitor them for specific activity, simultaneously alerting the Internet Security Office to stop the phishing scam from affecting other people.

With more and more people connecting to the internet each year, internet phishing scams have become a more prominent method of stealing one’s identity and money.

So, when checking your emails, make sure theyt are from a legitimate source, check for errors in the message and never give login, financial or personal information to any email claiming to be from the university. SUNY Fredonia will never ask for that information via email.

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