• Recent Posts

  • Categories

  • Archives


Before you leave …

Thursday, December 5th, 2019

The December holiday is here and we’re sure you, just like us, can’t wait to switch off your PC and start relaxing.  But before you leave, there are a few things you can do now to ensure that your return is seamless. Here are a few tips: 

  1. Activate your Out of Office function on your Outlook mailbox and indicate in the message when you will be available again in case someone needs to contact you. Also, indicate who will be responsible during your time away and add their email address to your Out of Office.
  2. Make sure that your relevant work-related data is accessible for usage by your colleagues while you are away. However, do NOT give your password to colleagues when as this poses a security risk.
  3. If your sun password might expire during your holiday, rather change it before you go. If it expires while you are away you will be locked out of your account and it will cause unnecessary stress to deactivate it in January. 
  4. If you receive a phishing email on your sun account over the holiday and clicked on links or typed in your username and password, your account may be compromised. Immediately change your password at and log a service request on the ICT Partner Portal. Your device will then be checked and scanned after the holiday (2 January) 
  5. Information Technology will also be closing, like the rest of the University, on 24 December and opening again on 2 January. If possible, please log your IT requests as soon as possible before you leave. If you have a critical problem, it might be difficult to assist you a day before you leave or on the last Friday since suppliers also close over the festive season.

How do I report phishing?

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

You’ve received a suspicious email, what should you do with it? Firstly, don’t click on any links. But just as important, send it to us so we can prevent more staff and students falling prey to the scam. We encourage our customers to submit potential phishing examples for review. Using these submissions, the Cyber Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) can learn from the analysis of these messages. This collectively helps to improve the level of virus and spam detection.

What is phishing?

Phishing attacks are designed to steal a person’s login and password details so that the cyber criminal can assume control of the victim’s social network, email, and online bank accounts. Seventy percent of internet users choose the same password for almost every web service they use. This is why phishing is so effective, as the criminal, by using the same login details, can access multiple private accounts and manipulate them for their own good. 

More on how to recognise a phishing email. 

Report phishing

  1. On the ICT Partner Portal:
  1. By sending an email:​​
  • Start up a new mail addressed to​​
  • Use the Title “SPAM” (without quotes) in the Subject.​​
  • With this New Mail window open, drag the suspicious spam/phishing mail from your Inbox into the New Mail Window. It will attach the mail as an enclosure* and a small icon with a light yellow envelope will appear in the attachments section of the – New Mail.​​
  • Send the mail.​​

*Spam or phishing examples must be sent in either.EML or .MSG format as an attachment and must not be forwarded. This ensures the original email can be analysed with its full Internet message headers intact. Alternatively, use the mail application to save the email (usually located under File | Save As) as an .EML or .MSG format to a folder location, and attach the saved file to a new email.

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.


Protecting yourself from spearphishing attacks

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

For a large enterprise like Stellenbosch University phishing attacks are the most common cybercrime.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, we were all inundated with spam emails, selling everything from fake pharmaceuticals to cheap perfumes. With spam, cybercriminals use a blanket approach sending emails to as many people as possible, hoping a few gullible customers will be funding further spam emails.

General “shotgun” phishing is still a problem today, but the past 18 months have seen a rise in a more sinister form of cyberattack,  spearphishing, which is much more targeted to an individual or an enterprise’s email system.

Spearphishing is similar to phishing, it’s also a vector for identity theft where cybercriminals try to get users to hand over personal and sensitive information without their knowledge.

Cybercriminals view phishing attacks as a profitable and an easy way to gain access to an enterprise enabling them to launch more sophisticated attacks, for example, spearphishing attacks. Humans are, after all,  the weakest link and thus the most effective target for criminals looking to infiltrate a network like the university.

Even though spearphishing is more focused than its less-sophisticated relative phishing, everyone can apply the following principles to protect yourself and the university against cybercriminal activity:

Use common sense when it comes to phishing attacks
Be sensible and smart while browsing online and checking your emails. 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. You should never click on links in an email to a website unless you are absolutely sure it’s authentic. If you have any doubt, open a new browser window and type the address into the address bar. Always be wary of emails asking for confidential information – especially if it asks for personal details or banking information. The university and your bank will never request sensitive information via email. They do not need it. They have it all already.

Watch out for shortened links
Pay particularly close attention to shortened links, especially on social media. Cybercriminals often use,, or to trick you into thinking you are clicking a legitimate link when in fact, you are being inadvertently directed to a fake site. 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. They will be filled with plenty of spelling mistakes, CAPITALISATION and exclamation marks. They will also have impersonal salutations – e.g. ‘Dear Valued Customer’ or ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ salutations – and will have implausible and generally suspicious content. Cybercriminals will often intentionally make mistakes in their emails bypass spam filters and improve responses. 

Be wary of threats and urgent deadlines
Sometimes the university does need you to do something urgently, however, this is an exception rather the rule. For example, you all have been getting reminders to reactivate your network account by the end of March. Threats and urgency, especially coming from what claims to be a legitimate company, are a giveaway sign of phishing. Some of these threats may include notices of a fine or advising you to take action to stop your account from being closed. Ignore the scare tactics and rather contact the company via phone.

Browse securely with HTTPS
You should always, where possible, use a secure website, indicated by https:// and a security “lock” icon in the browser’s address bar, to browse. This is particularly important when submitting sensitive information online, such as credit card details.

Never use public, unsecured Wi-Fi, including MatiesWiFi, for banking, shopping or entering personal information online. Convenience should never be more important than safety. When in doubt, use your mobile’s 3/4G or LTE connection.

[ARTICLE by David Wiles]

Cybersecurity Awareness month: Some statistics and common sense advice

Monday, November 5th, 2018

It’s November and Cybersecurity Awareness month is behind us. As a final signoff,  we would like to share a few statistics and give some common sense advice to help you spot phishing scams.

Surely South Africa is not sophisticated or advanced enough to be included in phishing attacks? According to Drew van Vuuren, CEO of 4Di Privaca, South Africa is the second most targeted country globally when it comes to phishing attacks.

The cost of phishing in South Africa amounted to approximately R4.2 billion in 2013 alone and 5% of phishing attacks globally occur in South Africa. It is not a matter of “if” the university is going to be a target, but “when”. Phishing attacks are not Information Technology’s concern, but should also be yours as a user of the internet. 

According to a 2016 survey by Symantec, over 30% of South African internet users share at least three pieces of personal information on their social media profiles which could be used to steal their identity. 

60% of the respondents admitted that they had no idea what their privacy settings were and who could see their personal information on sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.

People often become victims of online fraud by using the same password or usernames on multiple sites, including social media sites and internet banking sites. According to Ofcom’s “Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report 2013” report, 55% of the poll respondents used the same password for most, if not all, websites.

Here are 10 common-sense tips to help you spot and prevent becoming a victim of a phishing scam:

1. Learn to identify suspected phishing emails

  • They duplicate the images and branding of a real company.
  • They copy the name of a company or an employee of the company.
  • They include sites that are visually similar or identical to a real business.
  • They promote gifts or threaten the closure of an existing account.

2. Check the source of information from incoming email

Your bank, Information Technology, or cell phone provider will never ask you to send your passwords or personal information by mail. Never respond to these questions, and if you have the slightest doubt, call your bank, IT or your cell phone provider directly for clarification.

3. Never go to your bank’s website by clicking on links in emails

Do not click on hyperlinks or attachments, as it will direct you to a fraudulent website. Type in the URL into your browser or use your own bookmarks or favourites if you want to go faster.

4. Beef up the security of your computer

Common sense and good judgement are as vital as keeping your computer protected with a good antivirus and anti-malware software to block this type of attack. In addition, you should always have the most recent update on your operating system and web browsers.

5. Enter your sensitive data on secure websites only

In order for a site to be ‘safe’, the address must begin with ‘https://’ and your browser should show a closed lock icon.

6. Periodically check your accounts

It never hurts to check your bank accounts periodically to be aware of any irregularities in your online transactions.

7. Phishing doesn’t only pertain to online banking

Most phishing attacks are against banks, but can also use any popular website to steal personal data such as eBay, Facebook, PayPal, etc. Even the university’s e-HR site was targeted in 2017.

8. Phishing is international

Phishing knows no boundaries and can reach you in any language. In general, they are poorly written or translated so this may be another indicator that something is wrong. However, don’t be convinced it’s legitimate if it’s in Afrikaans – phishers are getting clever and adapting.

9. Have the slightest doubt? Do not risk it.

The best way to prevent phishing is to consistently reject any email or news that asks you to provide confidential data. Delete these emails and call your bank to clarify any doubts.

10. Keep up to date and read about the evolution of malware

If you want to keep up to date with the latest malware attacks, recommendations or advice to avoid any danger on the network, subscribe to the Information Technology blog or follow them on Twitter. Put your local computer geek or the IT HelpDesk on the speed dial of your cell phone, and don’t be embarrassed or too proud to ask questions from those who are knowledgeable on this topic.

Keep safe out there.


© 2013-2020 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.