Cybercrime Strikes Students

Nicholas Ebelhack

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Reports of email scams directed towards Western Illinois University students have prompted University Technology (uTech) to respond to the student body’s concerns about phishing scams.

Phishing, a process in which a cybercrime is committed through attempting to retrieve personal information by assuming a false identity over the internet or phone, has continued to plague Western student’s university email addresses.

According to Robert Emmert, Director of IT Security at uTech, it was one of the most recent phishing scams that prompted a response.

“The email came through and we saw it and we just sent out an email to everybody saying, ‘Hey this is a phishing scam, don’t fall for it,’” Emmert said. “I believe we kind of highlighted how you could tell it was a fake message.”

In the email, uTech breaks down some of the telltale signs that an email is a phishing scam, such as in the way that scammers altered their links so that they looked like Western’s.

“The URL was obviously not a Western URL if you looked at the name in it,” Emmert said. “I believe it didn’t have the padlock image embedded in it, but aside from that you really couldn’t tell and it looked like a Western sign on page.”

This led to uTech finding it necessary to start warning students about the prevelance of phishing scams.

“It looked very similar to our sign on page, so its time that we ought to put something out to the community telling them to be careful of this one so that people don’t fall for it,” Emmert said. “We also put out stuff on social media to remind them that if they see these things they can mark them with Google.”

Emmert further said that phishing emails can also be easily recognized by the content of the message, as they frequently contain logical errors.

“The logic in the email didn’t make sense either,” Emmert said. “It said something like the mailbox is over its quota or something similar, which we don’t have. I think they also referred to us as the WIU Tech Team, which isn’t our title, so those are some dead giveaways of those types of things.”

This isn’t the first instance of phishing directed through student email addresses. It is common for students to be offered jobs that turn out to be phishing scams. Emmert says that if it is too good to be true, it likely is.

“Students are always looking for jobs so it’s a place for cybercriminals to target, and sometimes those emails are just looking for personal information,” Emmert said. “If you are not out seeking jobs and they are seeking out you for a job then it is probably pretty suspicious.”

In order to protect themselves from being a victim of cybercrime such as phishing, Emmert warns students to proceed with caution when venturing into unfamiliar territory on the Internet.

“They are never the same, so you just have to be ever vigilant about these kinds of things,” Emmert said. “It’s not always going to be one kind of thing that you have to look for, so you are always going to have to be vigilant and cautious. If it looks suspicious, then it might be, and you’ll have to do some more extra investigating before you go forward with this kind of stuff.”

Students can report suspicious emails through their gmail accounts in order to prevent others from receiving and possibly falling victim to phishing scams.

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