• Recent Posts

  • Categories

  • Archives


Phishing with subject “Verify Your Email To Avoid Disruption”

Friday, June 7th, 2019

An email with the subject “Verify Your Email To Avoid Disruption” which looks as if it’s from “Stellenbosch University – Outlook Office 365” was sent to staff and students. The email asks you to click on a link to verify your Outlook account. (see image)

This is not a legitimate email from Information Technology, but a phishing attempt.

We will never ask you to provide any personal information by means of email. By clicking on links and providing your information, you give criminals access to your personal information and your accounts.

If you clicked on the link in this phishing email, immediately change your password on For enquiries contact the IT Service Desk by logging a request or calling 808 4367. More information on phishing is available on our blog and Twitter.

How to avoid phishing scams

Friday, May 24th, 2019

We are often asked by staff and students what they can do to stop phishing scams, and what software they should install to prevent them from becoming victims. In some cases students have asked us to fix their computers and to install software to block phishing scams.

Of course that request is impossible to fulfil. Phishing scams are like the common cold. Just like you cannot prevent the common cold, you can only adopt a lifestyle, and take precautionary measures to reduce your risk of infection. They will always be there and will always adapt and change. As long as there are people who are uninformed or careless who fall for these scams, phishing attacks will continue.

The best way to reduce your risk is to report all suspected phishing scams on ICT Partner Portal. (Full details at the end of this post). Here are some basic rules to help you to identify phishing scams:

  • Use common sense
    Never click on links, download files or open attachments in email or social media, even if it appears to be from a known, trusted source.
  • Watch out for shortened links
    Pay particularly close attention to shortened links. Always place your mouse over a web link in an email (known as “hovering”) to see if you’re being sent to the right website.
  • Does the email look suspicious?
    Read it again. Many phishing emails are obvious and will have implausible and generally suspicious content.
  • Be wary of threats and urgent deadlines
    Threats and urgency, especially coming from what claims to be a legitimate company, are a giveaway sign of phishing. Ignore the scare tactics and rather contact the company via phone.
  • Browse securely with HTTPS
    Always, where possible, use a secure website, indicated by https:// and a security “lock” icon in the browser’s address bar, to browse.
  • Never use public, unsecured Wi-Fi, including Maties Wi-Fi, for banking, shopping or entering personal information online
    Convenience should never be more important than safety.

If you do receive a phishing e-mail, please report it as soon as possible. Once you have reported the spam or phishing mail, you can delete it immediately.

You can report this on IT’s request logging system, the ICT Partner Portal.

  • Go to the ICT Partner Portal.
  • Fill in your information and add the email as an attachment. Your request will automatically be logged on the system and the appropriate measures will be taken by the system administrators to protect the rest of campus.


WhatsApp scams

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Several WhatsApp scams are popping up in South Africa at the moment and it might be a good idea to look out for these latest threats. 

  1. WhatsApp Gold
    This hoax has been around for a long time and is a simple phishing attack where you receive a message that WhatsApp has launched a new upgraded service called WhatsApp Gold. Often this app is advertised as free and includes features such as new themes and free voice calls. The message contains a link to download WhatsApp Gold, which installs malware on your cell phone. This malware enables hackers to steal your information or even to spy on your messages and communications. To avoid falling for scams like this never click on unknown links or download unverified software onto your cell phone.

  2. Voucher phishing
    Similar to the WhatsApp Gold scam, these messages are usually sent from a number impersonating a fake contact. They generally state that you have won a free voucher for a local supermarket in return for completing a short survey. The link contained in this message diverts to a fake website impersonating the supermarket’s web page. Once users have entered their details on the website, their information has been compromised and is fed straight to the scammers. Shoprite, OK and Pick ‘n Pay have reported scams using their branding on a fake website.

  3. Spy apps
    While browsing or in a WhatsApp message, you might find a link to download a WhatsApp “spy app” claiming to be able to see what your contacts are saying to each other, along with giving you the ability to intercept their pictures, voice messages, and images. Of course there is no way to intercept WhatsApp messages in this way as all WhatsApp conversations are encrypted. These fake “spy app” applications usually install malware on your phone or sign you up for expensive subscription services. Several students have reported that they have recently fallen victim to these scams. It is important to realise that the Google Play Store is not infallible and can also contain malware-infested spy apps.

  4. Verification request scams
    The last two scams are by far the most popular in South Africa. Verification request scams are spread through compromised accounts. (some of people you might know) You will receive a message from a user on your WhatsApp contact list asking to send your WhatsApp verification code. If you do, scammers will have access to your Whatsapp account and can take over your number. Never divulge your WhatsApp verification code and be wary of strange requests from your contacts.

  5. SIM-swop takeover
    Currently this is by far the biggest threat to South African WhatsApp users. The financial losses incurred by sim-swop victims in 2018 was a whopping R89 million. When SIM-swop fraud happens and the fraudsters take ownership of your number, they can easily and instantly install WhatsApp on their own smartphone and log in to your account. The two-factor authentication message will be sent to the number they now control and using WhatsApp, they can scam your contacts into divulging information or send them money by impersonating you.

    This is also a serious threat to other platforms that use SMS two-factor authentication – including many banking apps. You should check immediately with your cell phone provider if you lose access to your cell phone network for no apparent reason, as this is the first sign that SIM-swop fraud might have been committed.


Malware warning

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

Emails with the subjects “Have you received your payment” and “Apply for a loan” are being distributed to students and staff. Please do not open these since they could contain an embedded file which will infect your device with malware.

When you receive emails with attachments from unknown senders, keep in mind that you should never open attachments as they could contain malicious content.

If you think your account or device has been compromised or you notice suspicious activity:

  1. Immediately change your password on
  2. Contact the IT Service Desk by logging a request or calling 808 4367.
  3. More information is available on our blog and Twitter.

Increase in phishing attacks

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

Phishing attacks are on the increase due to staff and students replying to phishing emails or entering their usernames and passwords on suspicious websites.

This not only poses a security risk for the user, but also for their colleagues and more importantly, for the safety of our entire university network.

Please do not reply to any email requesting your username and password, even if it’s seemingly from someone you know. This information is used by phishing attackers to target our students and staff. By supplying your private information you are making it much easier for them to access accounts and the network.

If you think your account has been compromised or notice suspicious activity:

  • Immediately change your password on
  • Contact the IT Service Desk by logging a request or calling 808 4367.
  • More information on phishing is available on our blog and Twitter.

© 2013-2019 Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author(s) and content contributor(s). The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Stellenbosch University.