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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Don’t fall for phishing scam emails

By Zoe Buchli

On Thursday between 4:24 p.m. and 4:51 p.m., Academic Technology and User Services (ATUS) at Western began receiving reports of a phishing spam email sent to Western emails claiming to be from the IT Department. The email directed students and faculty to follow a link in order to keep using their Microsoft Office 365 mail services and was sent from Western student accounts that are believed to have been hacked.

The email read:

“Dear All,

This is a friendly reminder.

In order to keep using mail services on microsoft 365, please indicate that it is still in use by verifying. Thanks.

IT Department”

According to ATUS employee Sky Bressette, if a recipient of the email clicked the link, it would take them to page requiring their Western universal login, which would compromise their account and spam would be sent to and from the student’s email.

It is not known at this time exactly how many Western students and faculty received this email.

“It varies per message, but some phishing messages have been delivered to hundreds or even thousands of mailboxes,” ATUS help desk manager Sean Stockburger said.

Phishing emails like this one are common, and occur almost daily at different times, Bressette said.

“Just earlier today and last night we were getting reports about spam emails that were different than this one,” Bressette said.

Bressette said if a person clicks a spam link, their email can easily become the next email that sends around phishing messages.

Western’s email system can detect spam messages, and will block a phishing account from sending further messages, but sometimes it is too late and the account has already been able to send hundreds of messages, Stockburger said.

Official emails need an ATUS signature at the bottom, and will be sent from the ATUS Help Desk email.

“The best way students and faculty can avoid being impacted by these messages is to learn how to recognize a fraudulent message,” Stockburger said.

ATUS has resources to help students and faculty avoid fraudulent emails.

For further questions, contact ATUS at 360-650-3333 or helpdesk@wwu.edu

Updated Monday, Jan. 15 with information from ATUS help desk manager Sean Stockburger.

If you have any information you would like to share, send us an email at westernfrontonline@gmail.com.


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