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Saturday, September 23, 2023


Phishing for information


Phishers attempt to extract personal information, such as user names and passwords, which can result in stolen identity or theft. Though the University has tried to protect students from such online tactics, some students have fallen through the cracks. | Carolina Trevino/The Daily Cougar

While the rapid advancement of technology in recent years has given the nation useful new appliances, there is also a downside — phishing.

A form of spam found on the Internet, phishing can create problems such as identity theft or malware attacks for users who fall for the scam.

Mary Dickerson, executive director of IT, has worked in the field for many years and has watched the craft evolve.

“Phishers craft an email that looks official, from something like a bank, a school or even Facebook,” Dickerson said. “Old phishing emails had poor grammar, bad graphics and were easily detectable.”

As technology has become more advanced, phishing techniques have become stronger and much more accurate than before.

“They use your username and password to log into your accounts,” Dickerson said. “Their ultimate goal is to steal your identity, your money or to use your account to access other people’s accounts.”

After multiple phishing waves attempted to impersonate official UH correspondence, philosophy freshman Daniel Smith has given up on the University’s email system entirely.

“I usually delete most of the emails from the school,” he said. “It’s not worth the risk to me.”

The University’s IT Department is doing its part to prevent students from falling victim to phishing.

“We’ve designed a system that emails have to go through,” Dickerson said. “We give each email a score, and if one receives a low enough score, we don’t let it through.”

The job isn’t up to just the University, though. Dickerson said students should play their part in helping by being aware of everything they do on their devices.

“If you’re suspicious, you can forward the email to IT so you can check if it’s a real email,” Dickerson said. “When phishing emails are reported by staff or students, we post them. After, we contact the ISP of the site and have it taken down.”

Engineering sophomore Matthew Patton has managed to avoid this ordeal entirely.

“I haven’t received any, but I do know plenty of people who have,” Patton said.

IT warns students against giving out bank account numbers, Social Security numbers or even their Facebook password.

“Don’t use the same account info for every site that you use,” Dickerson said. “If possible, try to keep your accounts separate.”

Students who receive phishing messages can report them to UIT Security by email at [email protected].

[email protected]

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