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spear phishing

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 Bit.ly, Tinyurl.com, Goo.gl or Tr.im 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]

Phishing: Email from “Stellenbosch University Helpdesk”

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

This morning’s spear-phishing attack comes in the form of a fake mail from “HelpDesk” about an alleged “Email Update”

The spear-phishing mail is as follows:

“Notice From Stellenbosch University HelpDesk: 

In an effort to increase the level of security for our  email accounts User, We are implementing a new email password policy for your protection. If you have not update your password recently click here: sun.ac.za to update your password or your e-mail will be temporarily  suspended .

Thanks for your co-operation.”

This is, of course, a phishing scam and you shouldn’t consider it as legitimate even though it allegedly comes from the “Helpdesk”.

The poor grammar, lack of official branding and threatening tone of the mail makes it a classic phishing scam, but with the added danger of students and personnel falling for it because of the  salutation “Notice from the Stellenbosch University HelpDesk:”

We have already blocked access to the server, but there is a high risk that users who are currently on holiday and accessing university mail through their ADSL internet connections or cell phone, will still have access to the scammer’s server and will be fooled by the “forged” login page and provide the scammers with their usernames and passwords. If this happens the scammers will gain control over the personnel or student account and continue their attack from “within” the university network.

Always send the spam/phishing mail to the following addresses:

help@sun.ac.za and sysadm@sun.ac.za.

 Attach the phishing or suspicious mail on to the message if possible. There is a good tutorial on how to do this at the following link (which is safe) : http://stbsp01.stb.sun.ac.za/innov/it/it-help/Wiki%20Pages/Spam%20sysadmin%20Eng.aspx

  1. Start up a new mail addressed to sysadm@sun.ac.za (CC: help@sun.ac.za)
  2. Use the Title “SPAM” (without quotes) in the Subject.
  3. 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.
  4. Send the mail.

IF YOU HAVE FALLEN FOR THE SCAM:

If you did click on the link of this phishing spam and unwittingly give the scammers your username, e-mail address and password you should immediately go to http://www.sun.ac.za/useradm and change the passwords on ALL your university accounts (making sure the new password is completely different, and is a strong password that will not be easily guessed.) as well as changing the passwords on your social media and private e-mail accounts (especially if you use the same passwords for these accounts.)

IT has set up a website page with useful information on how to report and combat phishing and spam. The address is:

http://blogs.sun.ac.za/it/en/2017/11/reporting-spam-malware-and-phishing/ As you can see the address has a sun.ac.za at the end of the domain name, so it is legitimate. 

Spear-phishing scam from “university personnel”

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Spear-phishing is a targeted form of phishing in which fraudulent emails are sent to specific individuals at an institution, like the university, in an effort to gain access to confidential information.

This morning we are starting to see the spear-phishing scam emails being sent out in the name of known individuals at the university – in Tygerberg’s case – the Dean, Prof Jimmy Volmink.

Below is a mail that is being sent out “in the name” of Prof Volmink, entitled “Invoice Problem”. (click on image to enlarge) It was sent to several university addresses, uses a forged e-mail address from another university, and has been designed to convince people that it is legitimate.

This is a dangerous phishing scam because it seems to come from a known person.Do not respond to it and if you do receive it here is what to do:

Send the spam/phishing mail to the following addresses help@sun.ac.za and sysadm@sun.ac.za.

 Attach the phishing or suspicious mail on to the message if possible. There is a good tutorial on how to do this at the following link (which is safe): http://stbsp01.stb.sun.ac.za/innov/it/it-help/Wiki%20Pages/Spam%20sysadmin%20Eng.aspx

  1. Start up a new mail addressed to sysadm@sun.ac.za (CC: help@sun.ac.za)
  2. Use the Title “SPAM” (without quotes) in the Subject.
  3. 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.
  4. Send the mail.

IF YOU HAVE FALLEN FOR THE SCAM:

If you did click on the link of this phishing spam and unwittingly give the scammers your username, e-mail address and password you should immediately go to http://www.sun.ac.za/useradm and change the passwords on ALL your university accounts (making sure the new password is completely different, and is a strong password that will not be easily guessed.) as well as changing the passwords on your social media and private e-mail accounts (especially if you use the same passwords for these accounts.)

IT has set up a website page with useful information on how to report and combat phishing and spam. The address is:

http://blogs.sun.ac.za/it/en/2017/11/reporting-spam-malware-and-phishing/

As you can see the address has a sun.ac.za at the end of the domain name, so it is legitimate. I suggest bookmarking this.

[ARTICLE BY David Wiles]

MAILBOX FULL phishing message

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

A phishing email with the subject MAILBOX FULL has been sent from an internal SU staff member’s account. (See below for example with links removed)

Remember that spear-phishing email always appears to come from a trusted source like a university address and because it might seem to come from someone we know personally, there is a greater potential danger. Note that even if it says Microsoft, there’s no indication of branding. Official communication from IT will always be branded and look the same. Also, note the multiple spelling errors and suspiciously bad language. 

Do NOT click on any of the included links in the email or enter your username or password. You should never do this at any time. If you follow the link and supply your information, it will be used by phishing criminals to gain access to your bank details. 

If you have any inquiries, please let us know by logging a request on ServiceNow or calling our Service Desk at 808 4367. For more information on this and other phishing attacks, refer to our blog and Twitter account.


From: SU Staff, Mev <mevsustaff@sun.ac.za>
Sent: Tuesday, 15 August 2017 12:18 PM
Subject: Mailbox Full

Your mailbox is full and you have 3 mails pending. kindly increase the storage capacity of your mailbox account. Increase the storage capacity by clicking below

             storage increase

Fill out the instruction in order to increase the storage capacity to continue using your email account inorder to avoid being disconnected.

©Copyright 2017 Microsoft

All Right Reserved.

Phishing and whaling

Friday, February 5th, 2016

Recently we gave you some pointers on identifying phishing e-mails. So now that you know all the signs and how to outwit the criminals, there’s another variant – spear phishing. But don’t panic, it’s almost the same, with a bit of a twist.

Spear phishing is an e-mail that seems to be sent from an individual or business you know. Of course it’s really from hackers attempting to obtain you credit card, bank account numbers, passwords and financial information.

These types of attacks focus on a single user or department within an organisation and use another staff member from the organisation’s name to gain the victim’s trust. (Also see our recent article on the incident at Finance.)

They often appear to be from your company’s human resources or IT department, requesting staff to update information, for example passwords or account details. Alternatively the e-mail might contain a link, which will execute spyware when clicked on.

But wait, there are even more fishing comparisons.

When a phishing attack is directed specifically at senior executives, other high profile staff or seemingly wealthy people, it’s called whaling. By whaling cyber criminals are trying to catch the “big phish”, or whale.

phishing

[SOURCE: http://www.webopedia.com]

 
 
 
 
 

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