Students may have noticed an increase in phishing expeditions this winter. Not the outdoor kind, but ones that take place in their inbox.
Spam e-mailers are getting smarter, according to an article on msnbc.com.
“Nearly one out of three Internet users was unable to tell the difference between fraudulent e-mails designed to steal their identities and legitimate corporate e-mail,” the Web site reads.
Phishing is a technique used by cyber criminals to confuse the receiver into giving them their bank account information or credit card numbers by using clever duplications of company e-mails.
There are usually ebbs and flows with spam, Bradley Customer Support Service and Computing Services Manager Nancy Goldberg said.
“Phishing expeditions come and go in cycles,” she said. “We’re more likely to see more of the spam like this at the beginning of the year.”
Some important guidelines for students to remember include knowing that “legitimate companies and the university will never ask for login IDs, passwords, credit cards or any other personal information through e-mail,” Goldberg said.
How often a student receives spam e-mails relates to how the student uses the e-mail, she said.
“It depends how active you are with e-mail,” Goldberg said. “If anyone can get it just by visiting a Web site [like Facebook] then anyone can sell it or use it.”
One simple way to fool the computers that search Web sites for e-mail addresses is to simply write your e-mail in characters, according to spam.getwisenet.org.
To write an e-mail address in characters, you would write the word at instead of using the at sign. You would also write out dot com.
“A study reported in March 2003 shows that using character entities to represent your e-mail address is very effective at preventing spammers’ computers from recognizing e-mail addresses posted on a Web page,” according to msnbc.com.
The Web page contains an encoder that effectively masks e-mail addresses.
Students can also protect their computers from viruses by updating software and deleting any mysterious e-mails.
“Students should keep Windows updates up to date,” Goldberg said. “Microsoft provides updates to protect from new viruses.”
Should a computer somehow contract a virus, the HelpDesk is very willing to fix it for students.
“I clicked on a bubble pop up and it shut down my computer,” sophomore entrepreneurship major Viridiana Miranda said. “I took it to the HelpDesk and four people worked on it and eventually cleaned out the virus.”
There is also a virus committee on campus that works on perceiving new viruses and figuring out ways to beat them.
“The virus committee is comprised of professional staff that looks into all the viruses out there to figure out ways they can be fixed,” Goldberg said.
Along with the committee, the staff at the HelpDesk looks into the new virus warnings received daily to discover any threats to the campus.
“We get daily notices from Symantec that we go through and act on them if they will affect the campus negatively,” Goldberg said.
Even with all this protection it is still possible to get viruses.
“My laptop got slammed with 30 viruses,” sophomore secondary education major Carolyn Yates said. “I had all my files on external hard drives so I was able to erase my entire computer and start over.”
The best action to take in any virus situation needs to be quick.
“If you think any of your accounts are compromised, immediately reset the password. Or in the case of credit cards, cancel them,” Goldberg said.
Similarly, if an e-mail seems suspicious it is best to get rid of it, Goldberg said.
“A good rule of thumb is if it looks too good to be true, delete it,” she said.
Some students seem to take this route when it comes to spam e-mails.
“I try to be very careful about deleting all spam e-mails or anything that looks dangerous,” sophomore elementary education major Amber Dudak said.
Sophomore business major Jen Aniolowski said she is also cautious with her e-mails.
“I delete anything that goes directly to my spam box or if it looks suspicious,” she said.
The university provides students with many resources to protect against viruses in general.
“Norton Antivirus is available free to all students and faculty and the Bradley HelpDesk Web site can explain the most recent viruses,” Goldberg said.
The Technology HelpDesk’s Web site offers lots of information about current viruses at helpdesk.bradley.edu/virus/index.shtml. Students can also contact the HelpDesk at x2964.