Thursday, February 25, 2021

Phishing scams riddle student inboxes with cyber dangers

Plattsburgh State students are no stranger to email scammers finding their way into inboxes with promises of gift cards and prizes. However, Assistant Chief Information Officer John Bradley and Information Security Analyst Simon Molders work to prevent any harm to emails or sensitive information.

Molders has a team in the  Librarian Information Technology Services to help him go through his prevention process and stop “fishers”. This term describes one who claims a false identity with the intention of gaining money or information.  Unfortunately, Molders cannot access a student’s school email so nothing can be done until the suspicious email is reported to him.

“We have an email address that anyone can report to,” Molders said. “If it’s serious, then we will go on to the handling step.”

Molders said he receives a lot of reports on a daily basis. However, about 95 percent of them end up being false or general spam. Molders can distinct real problems from fake ones with the help of the Barracuda mail filtering service PSUC pays for.

[Email scams] are a perennial problem,” Molders said. “[Barracuda] is updated several times a day to detect new scams.”

In addition, Bradley has created events to help raise awareness about safety on the web. During October, he held a contest that encourages students to report emails suspected of scams. Bradley also held events for students to inform them of safety precautions while noticing a strange email. One tip from Bradley is to always double check the details of any email sent to you. The individuals who send these emails don’t bother duplicating the details because they assume no one will check.

“Forging an email address is easy,” Bradley said. “Some fishers don’t even bother because [the name] is sometimes enough.”

PSUC senior Caleigh Scanlon describes suspicious emails as “common enough.” During the Fall 2017 semester, Scanlon’s school email was hacked. The hacker locked her out of the account while Scanlon was on winter break. Her email was restored quickly, so Caleigh has faith in LITS

“My email got hacked, but I don’t worry about it,” Caleigh said.

Bradley said the most common issue they face is phishing scams. However, there are worse threats. “Spear fishing” is a term that describes a hacker who spend s an extended amount of time with an email to duplicate every detail. These people pose at executives and higher-ups who possesses more power than an ordinary employee.

“Rather than being technically savvy, [the hackers] are relationship savvy,” Bradley said. “They use social engineering to get what they want.”

Molders said the hackers spend more time interacting with people compared to actual technology work. They are imposters who gain the trust of their targets through texting and emailing.

Bradley and Molders have seen a lot of cases throughout their time in PSUC. If a student has concerns of a suspicious email they can email Molders or Bradley to have it resolved immediately.

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