Phishing scams on the rise for students and faculty

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October’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month has been prioritized by Information Technology Services at California Baptist University to raise awareness of the dangers of email phishing, which has affected students and faculty.

Phishing occurs when scammers attempt to get personal information from victims, such as bank account information, credit card numbers and passwords.

This year’s theme is “Don’t Let a Phishing Scam Reel You In.”

Phishing cybercriminals can be manipulative and wish to benefit themselves by deceiving or pressuring others to do what they want.

Dale Lee, director of Information Security and Projects, sent out an email to students of CBU to inform them to take precautions against these scams.

“Phishing most commonly occurs through email but does refer more generally to the attempt to obtain confidential information through electronic means,” Lee said.

Other, less common forms of phishing include through voicemail (“vishing”) SMS (“smishing”) whaling and spear phishing.

“Vishing” refers to scammers using social-engineering with a telephone system to get financial information from the public.

Lee has developed statistics to calculate the number of spam that students would have received if CBU did not block them.

“We have stats which indi- cate that for the second week of October we blocked more than 17,000 emails that were spam,” Lee said. “This total includes some blocked phish- ing attempts, though we don’t have any details on how many messages were specifically phishing attempts.”

Lee said the phishing cam- paign’s goal is to limit the number of phishing scams coming through emails and for students to become more aware.

“A compromised email account can be used to send out more spam,”Lee said.“It might be used to reset the password for a banking account. A compromised email account – for instance, the CEO of a company – might be used by scammers to send an email to the accounting department to initiate a fraudulent wire transfer.”

Cyber-criminals use a variety of ways to deceive people into thinking they are legitimate, such as alternative ways of spelling a source’s name.

After these emails convince the reader to trust them, they lure the victim into a spoof website to unlock personal information and commit identity theft.

There are also phishing at-  tempts that send out a warning about fraudulent activity. Scammers will tell the victim to verify and follow the link to steal the information.

Timothy Phillips, instructor of Computer Information Systems at CBU, said phishing is a method for identity thieves to make money.

“It is a part of the information technology world and it is up to users to educate themselves on this type of threat,” Phillips said. “Computer ethics is the best method that can be used to influence or discourage people from phishing scams. A moral base must be created by the university in ethical hacking courses.”

Phillips said he has experiences “vishing” himself.

“I got a few calls from people claiming to be a part of the IRS,” Phillips said. “The only method of manipulation is fear. Education is the key.”

The scammer rely on scaring people to ensure their attempts work as planned.

“They get people to trust them by fear,” Phillips said. “The scammers tell users that they will garnish their wages, or access their accounts or they rely on the user’s lack of education and information.”

Students affected by these cyber criminals can take action against them to keep their information secure.

“Students can avoid phishing scams by learning more about phishing,” Phillips said. ‘Do not answer questions via the webpages or email unless you know who and what the person wants.’

Eva Jordan, junior political science major, said she has been phished several times, especially through email that states she won a prize or the lottery.

“A lot of hackers like to target younger people, especially students, because they know they will be more naive,” Jordan said.

No matter how much technology advances, there will most likely be phishing in different forms. It is up to people to educate themselves on these scams so their private information stays safe.

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