Phishing Attacks on Campus

Posted on: October 14, 2016

Since September 1, 2016, UT Austin has been experiencing a rash of spear phishing attacks which have compromised 175 staff/faculty Electronic IDs (EIDs). Here is the breakdown of people on campus who have fallen victim to these recent phishing attacks:

  • 91 faculty members
  •  72 staff members
  • 12 student employees

Spear phishing is an email spoofing fraud that targets organizations to gain access to confidential data. All of these recent phishing attacks have been distributed through email and attempt to convince the recipient that there are problems with their online account or payroll information. Attackers present a spoofed page designed to capture the victim’s EID and password. Links appear to point to familiar and trusted UT pages when, in fact, they point to a server in Russia or another foreign country. There are two major lines of defense against this scam: vigilance on the part of users and technology that identifies and targets suspicious messages.

In response to the current attack, vigilance plays an important role in protecting personal data and not compromising others. If you receive an email that looks suspicious, act on your instincts and don’t click on any links. If you are uncertain, it is best to contact the ITS Service Desk straightaway (https://ut.service-now.com/utss/ or 512-475-9400). Remember–and remind others–that Information Technology Services (ITS) will never ask for your password in an email. When you do see a URL in an email, please be especially vigilant to review the URL before clicking. Again, if a URL looks suspicious, err on the side of caution and don’t click any links.

Resources mentioned in the Cyber Security Awareness Month (CSAM) article a couple of weeks ago are helpful. Please take a look! The Information Security Office’s (ISO) Protect Your Privates site, The State of Texas Department of Information Resources Cyber Security Awareness Month website, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Stop.Think.Connect. campaign provides important and timely information. Arm yourself with the knowledge you need to stay safe online.

In addition to the things you do to protect yourself, ITS is working to implement technology that will identify email messages with links that are “hostile” or “suspicious” and warn recipients of potential dangers. We expect to deliver this technical solution in the near future and will keep you posted. Of course, a technical solution is only a backup to using our common sense.

This month UT Austin is experiencing a real world encounter with a malicious, orchestrated scheme to steal personal and professional information. The actions we each take impact cyber security for us all.  Thanks to the ISO team and ITS colleagues who are responding to this attack to ensure our campus community remains cyber safe.

 Stay vigilant!