ITS will begin identifying phishing emails through banner warnings

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Starting Feb. 26, Information Technology Services (ITS) will warn University of Connecticut email users about emails sent from third parties that could be trying to steal personal data, according to an email sent by UConn’s Chief Information Officer.  

An automated banner, which will read “message sent from a system outside of UConn,” according to the email, will appear in a contrasting color at the top of the message body. The warning won’t take up more than one line of preview on a typical smartphone, Michael Mundrane, the vice president of Information Technology, said. 

“Most phishing emails, which attempt to steal your personal data, come from outside of the University,” the email said.   

These types of phishing emails are relatively common, according to Mundrane.  

The IT Knowledge Base website gives some red flags to watch out for in order to identify a message as a phishing scam, including urgent requests, bad spelling or grammar, incorrect email address information, a generic signature line or unexpected requests for personal information.

Once a hacker is able to steal data from an account, the web of emails that can also become compromised grows.  

“The secret password is how the account holder is validated by the system,” Mundrane said. “Once an account has been compromised, it can be used to send emails as the account holder, exploiting information available to the address book, to harvest more accounts.”  

If students believe their accounts have been compromised, they should immediately change the password to their account.  

“A compromised account is merely one where your username and password are known by somebody other than yourself,” Mundrane said. “Once these credentials are known, they can be used just like you would use them to access any service you would access or take any action you would take.”  

If students are suspicious of an email and are unsure if it is safe to open, Mundrane said there are a few precautions they can take.  

“Students can forward suspicious messages to phishing@uconn.edu if they think a message is fraudulent,” Mundrane said. “They can hover over attachments and make sure they are what they say they are. They can hover over links for a similar review. A Microsoft rewritten safelink can be translated at https://o365atp.com. This restores the Office365 link into its original form.”  

While most phishing scams originate outside of the University, Mundrane said students should continue to exercise caution when opening emails, whether or not they are coming from the University.  

“Simply receiving an email from a UConn account is not proof that it is valid,” Mundrane said. “There is no way for students to differentiate a fraudulent individual using stolen credentials from the actual account holder.”  

Mundrane reiterates that email users should continue to be wary of emails that don’t contain the banner.  

“Criminals can and do use stolen UConn credentials to send fraudulent emails, and because they originate from within our email system, they will not have a banner,” said Mundrane. “Phishing is an ongoing problem and to protect yourself, you must be careful with all emails.”  

Thumbnail photo courtesy of @gurysimrat from Unsplash.com


Amanda Kilyk is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached at amanda.kilyk@uconn.edu

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