University warns of phishing emails

Due to a recent increase in phishing emails sent to students, Sonoma State University Police services has sent out warnings of the potential criminal activity that could entail by participating in these emails.

Potential scams are said to be on the rise by either mail or telephone from criminals posing as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). An email was sent by Police Services alerting students about the possible arrival of new phishing emails in their inboxes.

Phishing is the act of trying to trick someone into giving out their personal information to a trustworthy business or entity for possible malicious reasons. This information could include usernames and passwords, social security and bank account numbers, as well as credit card information.

“It is generally performed by impersonating an organization with whom you have an existing relationship,” said Andru Luvisi, the information security officer at Sonoma State. “The name is a metaphorical pun on the word ‘fishing’ because the criminal is sending out ‘bait’ [or enticing emails] and hoping that you will ‘bite’ [or give them your sensitive information].”

The most recent attempts at exploiting student trust have come from people pretending to be associated with Wells Fargo and the campus Exchange administrator. Students who provide sensitive information to these emails put not only themselves, but the univeristy at risk. Students who did fall for these scams are asked to change their passwords immediately.

“I have got two phishing emails so far,” said Cailin McCarry, a sophomore kinesiology major. “Because of the emails from Sonoma State, I knew to delete them but it’s scary knowing they are targeting us students and can take our information.”

Furthermore, Career Services has noted on their homepage online of potential job scams that can be received via phishing email as well. They have multiple examples of potential fraudulent behavior such as; emails showing a student has been hired for a job he or she never interviewed for, as well as the student being a recipient of a paycheck for work he or she never did.

“It is scary because I’ve been told that these criminal emails look exactly like emails sent from the university,” said Aaron Bunfill, senior psychology major. “The fact that they are trying to take money from broke college students is really disgusting to me.”

While there isn’t a record to determine if there’re students who have been victims of these scams, both Career and Police Services recommend students contact the IT help desk if they are unsure of the origin of an email. Sonoma State students are asked to be suspicious of any email that directly asks for their username and password, as the universities’ IT will never ask for this information.

Additionally, students are asked to not click on any links or attachments connected to suspicious looking emails as these can infect the students computer with ad or malware and can aid in further criminal activity.

“Many phishing emails are caught by filters on the email server, but some still get through,” said Luvisi when asked about how police services is alerted of potential harmful emails.

“Occasionally, as in this case, a bunch of phishing emails that are part of the same campaign get through, and we take the opportunity to remind the community about the dangers of phishing emails.”

Students are asked to stay aware of future suspicious emails as they will always be relevant to such organizations like SSU.

As the university’s population continues to grow so will the risk of criminal entailing emails. As it is stated on the SSU career services website, if an email is received and seems to good to be true, it probably is.