The use of technology has opened our society to a more well-rounded and more efficient way of living. But it has also open us up to be vulnerable to anyone who can also access the internet. Finances, personal information, and other details are easily accessible with the simple click of a button, and that’s exactly what spam emails are hoping for.
If you’ve checked your email, well, ever, there’s a good chance you’ve received multiple emails posing under a business, trying to get you to visit a website and unknowingly surrender your information to these people. Oglethorpe students are currently dealing with this issue; fraudulent emails popping up trying to take control of their accounts. If you are an Oglethorpe student receiving these emails, you are not alone, and the IT department is here to support you.
“There’s viruses and then there’s spam. We’ve blocked viruses; viruses are not getting through. What is getting through is spam, “ said IT Director Mike Jacobs. “Spam and phishing are the ones getting through, those are the ones you see.”
Phishing is when someone online poses as a legitimate business contacting users, either through email, telephone, or other forms of online communication, to try and get users to disclose personal data. It is an issue that anyone with online identification deals with, not just students at Oglethorpe.
“It’s a constant problem. It’s been around ever since email, and it’s not going to go away anytime soon. There are vendors to stop the problem, but it’s a constant battle back and forth,” said Jacobs. The IT department is working to limit the amount of spam that gets through but it is more of a technical problem than one of social engineering.
“A lot of it relies on someone trusting the email and clicking the link,” said Jacobs. “You’ll see the same email three or four times, that’s what happens, three or four or five people have clicked that link and it resends again.” That means that every time Oglethorpe users receive repeated phishing emails in their inbox, a different Oglethorpe user has clicked on the email link which re-sends the email to everyone.
Blocking or ignoring a spam email once does not get rid of the problem. Students unaware of the phishing at play will click on an email they think may be valid resulting in their private information being compromised.
Oglethorpe student Hayleigh Stonham faced this dilemma when she clicked on a link in a fake Bank of America phishing email. “The link sent me directly to a website that looked almost identical to the Bank of America website, the same logo, everything. Once I realized my mistake, I called Bank of America immediately and they automatically started monitoring my account for suspicious activity,” said Stonham. “Unfortunately, someone did start to transfer my funds to different people so the bank froze my account and I filed for fraud. I had to terminate that account and get a new one, but I managed to get all of my money back.” While she was lucky, others may not conscious of the emails they access and the people on the other side, plotting to take their money and information.
But the situation isn’t all hopeless. While phishing isn’t a problem that can be permanently resolved, there are many ways to limit the amount of spam in user’s inbox. The IT Helpdesk has recently sent out an email informing student that they are currently putting up new software that should help to fight spam emails getting through.
On ways to stay safe and protect your account Jacobs advised, “be smart, and what I mean by that is, when you get an email and you aren’t exactly sure where it came from, that may or may not be spam, when in doubt, contact us. Email or call us.” If concerned students can visit the IT department in person located in the basement of the library and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday thru Thursdays, and closes early at 5:00 p.m. on Fridays. Otherwise, students can send an email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or call at 404-364-8880.
Jacobs has recommendations on how to protect your information from being compromised. “It’s hard on your phone to double check things. When you’re on a computer and you hover your mouse over the link, it’ll have the full address of where you’re going. If that doesn’t match, that’s a telltale sign that it’s spam,” he said. “Another telltale sign is poor English, and of course, common sense; if you don’t have an account with that bank, it’s spam. Like I said, it’s social engineering, look at everything with some caution.”
There’s no need to be afraid of your email, but phishing and other types of spam are always out there. Being alert to the possibility and going to extra step to check an email’s validation can keep your information safe.