Increase in spam emails

Posted on: May 14, 2014 | By: Ryan Gay | Filed under: Tech Tips

Over the past few weeks, Elon University has experienced an increase in spam emails. These emails have become craftier in their phrasing and appearance, doing a remarkable job of mimicking legitimate-looking emails from technology sources on campus. While Campus Technologies is working diligently to improve and block spam attacks, we also rely on our faculty, staff, and students to use safe practices whenever you are reviewing the contents of your inbox. Here are some things to know when it comes to spam.

What is spam?

In the IT world, spam is considered electronic junk mail and not the canned precooked meat by Hormel. Most spam is advertising attempting to get users to visit different product sites. However, the trickier pieces of spam will mimic legitimate sources (most often mimicking groups you trust) in attempts to get you to offer up important pieces of information, such as passwords or other account information.

Most people know now that emails from a deposed prince seeking financial help, but offering a big return in the process, are not legitimate. Interestingly enough, this spam scheme dates back to the late 19th century and is known as the 419 scam. However, what about trickier ones, like the recent one from “ELON Human Resources” asking users to confirm salary revisions? Or another from the end of April that told users they needed to safeguard their email account due to a network upgrade? These are spam messages that you must take extra precaution against.

How Campus Technologies is helping

Campus Technologies is doing everything we can to help decrease spam attacks to University members. We take these attacks very seriously and do our best to keep the University community informed as soon as a major spam attack is identified. Emails informing the University community about spam attacks will always come from and will instruct users of content of the spam message, in addition to how users should respond. Further, Campus Technologies is working with compromised web form owners to take down sites that generate the spam attack. Finally, once the domain of the spam attack has been identified, Campus Technologies takes steps to have those domains blocked from the network to prevent future attacks. However, we also rely on our users to engage in safe practices to prevent your account from being compromised.

What should I do?

First, if you ever have doubts about whether or not an email is legitimate, feel free to contact the Technology Help Desk at 278-5200. Our staff will be able to inform you whether or not a message is spam. There are a few other tips to keep in mind when dealing with spam:

  • NEVER respond to emails asking for passwords or account information. Elon Campus Technologies will never ask for password or other personal information via email.
  • Keep in mind that your junk mail filters are not flawless. As technology evolves, so do the methods of hackers. You can train your junk mail filters by making sure to flag anything that is not legitimate, but it will never be 100% accurate.
  • Think twice before opening attachments or clicking links in email because viruses can attach themselves to email and infect your computer.
  • Just delete junk email messages without opening them—some emails contain hooks that capture your email address when you open email and transmit that information.
  • Change your password at least once a year. Immediately if you believe you might have compromised your account (e.g., you clicked on a link in a spam email or you emailed your password to someone).

Remember, Campus Technologies will never ask for passwords or account information electronically. Using a cautious eye when it comes to email messages will help ensure the safety of your account from future attacks. After all, spam messages are the cockroaches of the World Wide Web. If you ever have questions about the validity of email messages, please contact the Technology Help Desk at 278-5200.

Image by Flickr user Mike Mozart

Ryan Gay

Ryan Gay

Ryan is the Manager of Service Management & IT Project Lead for Instructional & Campus Technologies. He has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in English from UNC-Greensboro.

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