Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Phishing Scandal Points to Serious IT Problem

Courtesy of Furman Athletics

On Nov. 15, 2017, IT forwarded the email, “URGENT – Message from ITS – Phishing Schemes,” to university accounts in response to a serious breach of the cybersecurity system. Hackers successfully invaded private student email accounts and shattered student confidence in IT’s defense technology. Since Oct., more than 80 Furman student accounts have been compromised. Although cybersecurity threats can be associated with futuristic movies and governmental scandals, this attack hit close to home.

In recent months, students received a barrage of emails from IT. From “Prevent Successful Phishing attacks” to “Phishing Attempt 01/08/2018,” the IT department continues to try and get a handle on phishing attempts that started before winter break.

What is “phishing,” why are Furman students the target, who are the culprits and what is IT doing to stop it?

“Phishing attacks are attempts to steal user information such as logins, passwords or financial information,” Wayne Craig with IT wrote in an email exchange. “Attacks are usually performed by impersonating emails from someone familiar in order to trick the recipient into divulging valuable personal information.”

In essence, phishing is a scam designed to steal money. Student susceptibility happens due to a lack of caution when it comes to opening questionable emails and clicking on pop-ups. IT suggests that if an attack slips through Microsoft’s security system, it is because users failed to avoid phishing red flags.

For the 80 students who did open the phishing emails, IT is working to ¨actively react to phishing attempts,¨ Craig explained. He emphasized that ¨the last and best line of defense today is still user education and vigilance.¨

For this reason, IT is offering an online ten-minute course to educate students about phishing, free of charge. It will be available through Jan. 31, 2018, and IT implores students to consider the course.

However, the threat of phishing at Furman may continue throughout the semester.

“Phishing is a game of cat and mouse… the threats continue to evolve,” Craig said. “If you are suspicious, trust your instincts.”

IT is urging students to exercise discretion online. Students such as Caroline Noirez expressed frustration because she feels unsafe and unprotected on Furman’s servers.

While the problem persists, a sense of anxiety regarding Furman technology may increase. Included in this uneasiness are regular complaints about student computers getting stuck in remediation, a network lockdown that occurs if updates are not installed daily. As the threat of phishing appears to be an ongoing situation, IT suggests that students treat the matter seriously.

Students can anticipate other emails from IT and should be wary of hackers looking to impersonate university officials.

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