Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Fraudulent Email and Phishing Redux

Example of phishing email (click to enlarge)
Yet another round of fraudulent "phishing" emails have been sent across Campus masquerading as an official email warning users that their accounts are about to be shut down unless they are verified.

As we have noted multiple times during these campaigns, the Help Desk will never solicit your account information. All of our account work is done via our ePass website [epass.plu.edu], and we will not intentionally put your account into a position where it cannot be recovered.

Given how these emails continue, we felt it would be appropriate to pass on a small FAQ to help better inform the PLU community about these phishing emails.

Summary

  • PLU (I&TS) will never solicit your account information via email
  • If you ever have even the slightest inkling that an email might be fraudulent, do not do anything with it and call the Help Desk at 253-535-7525
  • If you have clicked on any links in these emails or responded to them, call the Help Desk at 253-535-7525
  • This phishing campaign has been attacking users for several months, taking over PLU accounts and sending more phishing emails from PLU accounts
  • They often include PLU logos to mimic official PLU emails and claim to be from the non-existent PLU Webmail Management Team

FAQ

Q: What exactly is a phishing email?
A:  A phishing email is basically an email meant to trick users into revealing sensitive information, "baiting" them into giving out private info such as passwords, credit card information, etc.

Typically, a phishing email will masquerade as coming from an official source, often claiming to either have important information for the user or claiming that their "account will be terminated" if the user doesn't give out their password information.

Unfortunately, methods will vary from phishing email to phishing email.

Q: How can I tell if an email is a phishing email?
A: Most phishing emails are plagued with:
  • Spelling errors
  • Grammatical mistakes
  • Strange use of punctuation
  • Bits of "code" showing in the email
  • Vague claims or threats towards your account
  •  Inconsistent or incorrect information about the account system
Q: Why is this still happening months after the initial email?  Can't these emails be stopped?
A:  The way this particular phishing campaign is working is to send out as many emails as possible to PLU emails, collect a few accounts, sit on these accounts for a bit while sending out more emails, and continue to collect more accounts.  Every time the attackers get another account, they can send out hundreds of emails; if even one person responds, that's another account and another couple hundred emails.

It's a vicious cycle that we can only break by educating users about the existence of these emails.  While we do our best to shut down the accounts as soon as we receive a report, usually we don't get a report until after a few minutes of sending, which can be hundreds of emails by that point.

We are considering other alternatives system side, but we need to be vary careful about such alterations as they can affect the receiving of legitimate emails as well.

Q: What do the attackers have to gain by doing this?
A:  Just more sources to spam people with.  Once the spammers have a sufficient number of accounts stocked up, they can start sending out spam emails to other people.  Often times we will cleanse an account and find that it has been altered to look like a bank or a school or a credit union.

Q: What should I do if I have responded to one of these emails?
A:  Change your password immediate by going to epass.plu.edu [epass.plu.edu] and call the Help Desk at 253-535-7525.  We will need to walk you through cleaning your account to ensure that no one else has access.

Q:  Is there anything I can do to help combat these emails?
A:  Yes!  Continue to report them to us every time you get one.  It may seem futile or redundant, but the sooner we know about a new wave, the sooner we can take action.

Tell your colleagues and friends about the phishing emails and about how they can learn more about them; the more people that know, the better chance we have that the phishing waves will be ineffective.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Spring 2016 Technology Workshops


Check out the schedule of Spring 2016 Technology workshops at http://www.plu.edu/itech/workshops/ along with full workshop descriptions and registration information. Workshops include a diversity of topics such as: 
  • Recording Screencasts with Screencast-o-Matic 
  • Assessing Class Climate with Electronic Student Feedback Tools 
  • Adding Interactivity to Videos with Zaption 
  • Collaboration with Google Docs and Drive 
  • Sakai Lessons Tool 
  • Photoshop Basics 
  • Easy Steps for Making Your Course Content Accessible 
  • Backups and Data Security at PLU 
  • And more...!
For a complete listing of workshops, see the workshop listings.

If you have a particular need for specialized and customized technology workshops for your class or department, contact Layne Nordgren (
layne.nordgren@plu.edu, 253-535-7197) and we'll do our best to meet your specific needs.

Need one on one assistance with technology? Instructional Technologies provides a design lab with computers and software for digital editing projects. The Digital Design Lab is located on the first floor of the Library near the Help Desk. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

PLU ePass Login Service Disruption

WHAT: PLU ePass Login Service Disruption 

Current Status: Resolved

Description:  As of some time this morning (Wed., July 8), users had been been experiencing a service disruption with the PLU ePass login system, preventing access to such services as Sakai, Gmail, Google Apps, and Web Help Desk. At approximately 12:15PM the issue was resolved and access to the affected resources have been restored. Please contact the I&TS Help Desk at 253-535-7525 if you have any remaining issues getting access to any of the affected resources.  Additional information is available at www.plu.edu/status.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Fraudulent Emails continue to plague PLU Community (or "What exactly is a Phishing email?")

Good Morning!

As many of you probably saw this weekend, yet another round of fraudulent "phishing" emails have been sent across Campus masquerading as an official email warning users that their accounts are about to be shut down due to exceeding their storage limit.  While it may be easy for many of us to write these off as non-sense, the newest batches have become progressively more convincing to the point that even seasoned users would require a bit of research to determine their authenticity.  

From a purely technical standpoint,
this fake email is a thing of beauty

As we have noted multiple times during these campaigns, the Help Desk will never solicit your account information like this.  All of our account work is done via our ePass website [epass.plu.edu], and we will not intentionally put your account into a position where it cannot be recovered.

Given how these emails continue to grow in their elaborateness, we felt it would be appropriate to do a more extended write up with a small FAQ to help better inform the PLU community about these phishing emails.


Summary:

  • PLU (I&TS) will never solicit your account information via email
  • If you ever have even the slightest inkling that an email might be fraudulent, do not do anything with it and call the Help Desk at 253-535-7525
  • If you have clicked on any links in these emails or responded to them, call the Help Desk at 253-535-7525
  • We post up-to-date information on the phishing emails going around on our Twitter @PLUHelpDesk
  • This phishing campaign has been attacking users for ~5 months, taking over PLU accounts and sending more phishing emails from PLU accounts
  • They often include PLU logos to mimic official PLU emails and claim to be from the non-existent PLU Webmail Management Team
It is imperative that we let as many people know about the existence of these fraudulent emails; the more people know, the less likely they are to actually respond to them.  I&TS has been using the Help Desk Twitter @PLUHelpDesk to notify users about the phishing emails, but we would love to know your preferred method of communication!  If you can think of a means of communication you'd prefer we use, let us know, and we will do our best to oblige.





FAQ:

Q: What exactly is a phishing email?
A:  A phishing email is basically an email meant to trick users into revealing sensitive information, "baiting" them into giving out private info such as passwords, credit card information, etc.

Typically, a phishing email will masquerade as coming from an official source, often claiming to either have important information for the user or claiming that their "account will be terminated" if the user doesn't give out their password information.

Unfortunately, methods will vary from phishing email to phishing email.

Q: How can I tell if an email is a phishing email?
A: Most phishing emails are plagued with:
  • Spelling errors
  • Grammatical mistakes
  • Strange use of punctuation
  • Bits of "code" showing in the email
  • Vague claims or threats towards your account
  •  Inconsistent or incorrect information about the account system
In the most recent instances, however, the phishers have gotten really fancy and upped the ante.  These most recent emails appear to be very real, as they include the PLU logo, are fairly free of any spelling or grammar mistakes, and even include our actual address!  (That was particularly surprising)

The only give-away on this wave of phishing emails was that the process for updating account info was completely wrong (we do everything through epass.plu.edu), and that we would never shut down your account in this fashion.  Also, we don't have a Webmail Management Team, and nothing would come up if you searched it.

These phishing emails were so well crafted, the only thing "wrong" about them was that they didn't send you to our actual epass.plu.edu page, which was done by design.  

Q: Why is this still happening months after the initial email?  Can't these emails be stopped?
A:  The way this particular phishing campaign is working is to send out as many emails as possible to PLU emails, collect a few accounts, sit on these accounts for a bit while sending out more emails, and continue to collect more accounts.  Every time the attackers get another account, they can send out hundreds of emails; if even one person responds, that's another account and another couple hundred emails.

It's a vicious cycle that we can only break by educating users about the existence of these emails.  While we do our best to shut down the accounts as soon as we receive a report, usually we don't get a report until after a few minutes of sending, which can be hundreds of emails by that point. 

We are considering other alternatives system side, but we need to be vary careful about such alterations as they can affect the receiving of legitimate emails as well. 

Q: What do the attackers have to gain by doing this?
A:  Just more sources to spam people with.  Once the spammers have a sufficient number of accounts stocked up, they can start sending out spam emails to other people.  Often times we will cleanse an account and find that it has been altered to look like a bank or a school or a credit union.

Q: What should I do if I have responded to one of these emails?
A:  Change your password immediate by going to epass.plu.edu [epass.plu.edu] and call the Help Desk at 253-535-7525.  We will need to walk you through cleaning your account to ensure that no one else has access.

Q:  Is there anything I can do to help combat these emails?
A:  Yes!  Continue to report them to us every time you get one.  It may seem futile or redundant, but the sooner we know about a new wave, the sooner we can take action.

Tell your colleagues and friends about the phishing emails and about how they can learn more about them (@PLUHelpDesk); the more people that know, the better chance we have that the phishing waves will be ineffective. 




Friday, January 10, 2014

Apple slowing security updates for previous versions of OS X

Source:
http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2014/01/09/82-of-enterprise-mac-users-not-getting-security-updates/
http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1222

Recently, Apple released the newest version of their operating system (OS), OS X 10.9 Mavericks, for free to all users that were at least on OS X 10.6 (and had compatible hardware).  This was a pretty bold move on Apple's part to just stop charging for the Operating System itself, and was welcomed by users across the tech spectrum, especially since most key Apple software was now also being released for free.

Months later, it seems that Apple really really really wants everyone to be using Mavericks, and they're doing so by putting all their focus on Mavericks at the expense of their older versions of the OS.  According to Apple's security release schedule (apple.com), there has been a lack of security updates directed at the older OSes.  Mavericks itself came with a bundle of security patches for some of the core parts of OS X, such as some minor unix utilities which needed bug fixes and some Apple software that wasn't working quite as expected. 

Security patches and bug fixes are normal for operating systems, and it's not uncommon for all OSes to have a slew of security patches out each month.  Apple typically prefers to release them in larger bundles as opposed to individualized fixes, though in the past they have released "hot fixes" to address major issues.  But for Apple to be turning away from their previous OSes so quickly, it seems like a real push to get users onto Mavericks as soon as possible and keep them there.

So is your Mac less secure if it doesn't have Mavericks?  Absolutely.  Many of the patches are for some fairly critical vulnerabilities, and while the virus and malware scene for Mac still hasn't taken off in over a decade, that doesn't mean they don't exist.  The best security practice you can have for your Mac right now would be to keep it up to date with software updates from Apple, including Mavericks.

Mavericks is free!  The upgrade is very simple, requiring a bit of time to download the software.  If your computer is Mavericks compatible (wikipedia.org), you most definitely should upgrade.  We strongly recommend backing up all your important documents before trying to perform the upgrade.  If you need assistance with upgrading your Mac, or have questions, please stop in or contact the Help Desk, and we'll be more than glad to assist!  Contact information at the end of this post.

A final note on OS X Security -- while OS X is not free of vulnerabilities, there still is not a strong case for using an anti-virus on your Mac at this time.  Most of the anti-virus systems currently available are just sub-par, often eating up a lot of the Mac's power looking for viruses and malware that just likely aren't going to hit your machine.  Apple has and keeps its own anti-malware service running in the background on your Mac; it isn't something you can interact with, but it is updated and worked on by Apple. 

Help Desk Contact Info:
Twitter:@PLUHelpDesk
Phone: 253-535-7525
email: helpdesk@plu.edu

Friday, January 3, 2014

Router Backdoors found in tons of router models...but not a big deal for most people

Source(s):
http://arstechnica.com/security/2014/01/backdoor-in-wireless-dsl-routers-lets-attacker-reset-router-get-admin/
https://github.com/elvanderb/TCP-32764/blob/master/README.md  (List of known affected routers)

Summary:

For the non-technically inclined, let's define a few terms for this article/post.  A backdoor, in computing terms, specifically refers to a means to control a device remotely via a hidden access.  You can think of it like a secret way into a device in order to control it; these backdoors often have very little or no verification, and will accept any command sent to them without question. 

The discoverer of the backdoor, , was focusing on trying to get back into his own router, which he forgot the password to.  In doing so, he found some really strange activity on his router, which upon further investigation revealed the backdoor.  Being a bit of a programmer, he explored the backdoor as best he could and was able to map out many of the controls it allowed.  He published his results in a rather humorous powerpoint presentation (1.9 MB ppt download, some not safe for work language), and many other users tested his program and found quite a few other routers that had the same backdoor.

So, is your own router at risk and should you worry? 

Yes, and No.  

See, the backdoor is pretty specific, and it looks to require that you actually be on the network to pull it off.  Even if you were able to plug the backdoor (which you can't really), the likelihood of someone using this method to gain access to your router is pretty low.  The second link has a list of known affected routers; if you use one of these for your business, there may be some cause for concern, but again, this is a fairly isolated method of attacking a router.

What this does bring up are some interesting questions as to why such a backdoor exists; all routers have a physical switch on them to allow a factory restore, so end users have no use for such an interface, and technicians would likely use this as well instead of using the rather esoteric interface.  This is definitely an issue which warrants further discussion and investigation, but most home users should be able to continue using their routers as they have been without additional worry.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Spam Report 11/25/13


Another day, another spam report, this time courtesy of one of our wonderful Help Desk Technician's, Kate!  Thanks Kate.

This morning the Help Desk received information regarding a group of spam emails that may end up in the inboxes of PLU Students, Faculty and Staff. The email fraudulently claims that the user’s mail server storage has been exceeded and that the account will be deleted if the user does not follow the link provided. Please ignore and delete this email should you receive it. A photo of this email as well as an explanation as to how it was determined to be spam are provided at the bottom of this post for your reference.

We encourage you, as always, to err on the side of caution if you receive emails that raise your suspicions in any way. The aforementioned information at the bottom of this post may help you identify key red flags that can give away a phishing email. If you are ever uncertain as to the legitimacy of an email you receive, please do not hesitate to call the Help Desk at 253-535-7525 and we will gladly assist you in determining whether or not the message comes from a source that you can trust.


If you have responded to the email pictured below and provided any information, please take the following steps to ensure the security of your account:

  • Update your epass password at http://epass.plu.edu
  • Update your password on any sites where you used that password (i.e., if your epass was the same as your bank password, update your bank password as well)
  • Log into your Gmail and sign out of all other sessions; to do this, scroll down to the bottom of the page and look for the section which says "Last Account Activity"; click on the "Details" link; a window will appear which will let you force sign out all other sessions.
If you need assistance with any of these steps or have questions about the phishing email, please contact the Help Desk at 253-535-7525 or email us at helpdesk@plu.edu.


This email tips us off in a number of ways. The text highlighted in the mint color is highly suspicious because it is clear that it does not come from a PLU source. The email address that it comes from is not a PLU address and the link it is advising you to follow is not at a PLU address. Furthermore, the language and format used is not that which PLU utilizes in its communication with students, faculty and staff (“Webmail Subscriber” is not how we refer to members of the PLU community, “your email account will be deleted from our server” is not action that would be taken by PLU in this case, and there is no PLU contact information given at the end).

Simple grammatical errors such as the ones highlighted here in purple are another red flag as this number of errors should not appear in communication from PLU. Finally, the general formatting of the email is unusual, see the large empty space at the top of the email, for example, highlighted here in green.