All malware is not created equal. This week a particularly devious piece landed in an MRU inbox. It was wrapped up in a zip file attachment. Here is what the malicious email looked like:
This malicious email is hard to identify as it contains a previously sent email thread. Interestingly enough, there is no human behind this email. It was sent by malware. When it gets on your machine it picks an email in your inbox and replies to it. Sending a copy of itself to an unsuspecting recipient.
The email is generic enough to work with pretty much any email. However it is the vagueness that flags it as suspicious. The other tell is the sender’s email address. Because this is malware and not a person sending out the email, the sender’s email address is incorrect.
If you decide to click and open the attachment, you see an Excel spreadsheet with this in the first cell.
If you missed the other two red flags, this one is your last chance to dodge the bullet. This very official looking graphic is asking you to enable editing and content to be able to “decrypt” the document It is also telling you what type of device to use to view it. Anytime you have this kind of instruction given to you to view a document, close it immediately and report it.
The instructions are not there to enable you to view the document. They are there to ensure the malware can be installed and will function. By asking you to enable editing and content, it is bypassing the safety controls we have in place to prevent the running of macros. It is not “decrypting” anything. If you can’t open a document just by clicking on it, consider it a threat.
This is another reminder how important it is to check the sender’s email address before you open an attachment or click on a link. If you recognize it, contact the sender using another method and confirm that they sent the email. If you don’t recognize it, don’t click. You wouldn’t take candy from a stranger, you shouldn’t take attachments from them either; no matter how enticing they are.
IT Services is proud to announce the launch of a new reporting process for phishing emails. If you are an employee, you will be able to use our new PhishAlarm button. If you are not, you can forward emails to firstname.lastname@example.org, our new email address for everything cybersecurity related.
Reporting a malicious email as an employee
If you have taken a look at your Gmail side panel, you may have noticed this .
If you don’t see your side panel, click the arrow in the bottom right hand of your screen.
Previously if you found an email that you thought was dangerous to your colleagues or you weren’t sure if it was legitimate, you had to click the Forward button and then type in email@example.com in the To field. Now we have a handy button.
To report a malicious email using the PhishAlarm button
- Open the email
- Click the PhishAlarm button in the side panel.
- Click Report Phish. A confirmation pane appears.
- Click the X to close the confirmation pane.
Not only is the PhishAlarm button super easy to use, it sends the cybersecurity team more information about the email making it easier to investigate. It’s a win for everyone!
While we won’t be ignoring emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, we are encouraging employees with phishing email concerns to use the PhishAlarm button. If you click the button and see a popup displaying something that looks like this:
You are not registered as an authorized user. If you are an employee, completing a registration form will rectify the problem. If you are not, you are unable to use the PhishAlarm button and will have to forward suspicious emails the old fashioned way.
Reporting a malicious email if you are not an employee
Unfortunately, we are unable to offer the functionality of the PhishAlarm button to those who aren’t employees. You will still see the PhishAlarm button, but if you try to use it you will get an unauthorized user notification.
The good news is, we have created a new email for reporting cybersecurity incidents, email@example.com. This new email will make it easier for the cybersecurity team to identify which reported emails are a priority and to respond quickly. While we won’t be ignoring emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, we are encouraging people to use email@example.com going forward.
Criminals are sending phishing emails that look surprisingly legitimate. They appear to come from apparently trustworthy senders, like “cisco@webex[.]com” and “meetings@webex[.]com.” They emails urge recipients to take an immediate action in order to fix a security vulnerability in their WebEx software. The emails look like this:
If you click on the Join button, it will take you to a page that asks for your login credentials. Of course the login page belongs to the criminals and will only steal your credentials.
If you receive an email asking you to update software, do not click the links in the email. Instead, start up the software and check for updates by selecting Help from its menu and selecting About. You can also visit the official website for the software and load updates from there.
We have been notified that cybercriminals have registered and are using the domain www.mroyalu.ca as well as several other look-a-like domains. They are attempting to fool people into visiting their malicious websites.
While working from home, it is very important that you double check all links that you receive in emails and the sender’s email address.
If the link does not have mtroyal.ca, mru.ca, mrucougars.com or mymru.ca before the first single / in the URL, it is malicious.
Examples of legitimate URLs are:
Examples of fraudulent URLs are:
Please do not let curiosity get the better of you, and attempt to visit any of these fraudulent websites. They will harm your machine and/or steal your data.
If the sender’s email address ends in anything other than @mtroyal.ca, then it is malicious.
Examples of legitimate email addresses are:
Examples of fraudulent email addresses are:
Please be extra cautious at this time.
Have you every opened an email and seen this?
This big yellow banner is a warning that Google has identified the email as coming from outside the Mount Royal network even though it has a Mount Royal email address. This happens when someone on campus is using a cloud based tool to send out communication emails or when someone is pretending to be a Mount Royal student or employee.
We whitelist the cloud based tools used on campus to avoid getting this error on legitimate emails. However, the developers of these tools like to change things once in a while without notice. If we aren’t able to adjust the whitelist in time, this banner will show up even if it isn’t malicious.
What do you do if this warning shows up on in email? Stop and take a closer look at the email. If you have seen the exact notification or newsletter before, then it is probably a whitelisting issue. If it is from a person, then it is probably malicious. Not sure, click the PhishAlarm button or forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the world on melt down, cyberattackers took advantage of the mayhem to send out a slew of spear phishing emails to several departments. Most of them had a member who reported the suspicious email right away. As a result, we were able to notify their colleagues before most of them had even opened it.
Unfortunately, one department was left vulnerable. None of their members reported the malicious email sent to them. We eventually found it, but we it was much later and there was a delay in the notification going out. This delay increased the chances that someone would become a cyberattack victim.
We know that all of you have much on your mind trying to figure out how to teach and work from home. However during this challenging time, please don’t forget to take those extra two seconds to let us know when something suspicious lands in your inbox. The sooner we know, the sooner we can let everyone else know and reduce the risks to everyone’s data, including yours.
Across campus an email similar to the following has been popping up in inboxes.
According to their website, Alignable is
…the online network where small business owners across North America drive leads and prospects, generate referrals, land new business, build trusted relationships, and share great advice.
Their website is slick and professional. It has an impressive lists of testimonials. In addition logos of media outlets are prominently displayed. Everything on the site is designed to make the service look like it is widely used and trusted.
While there is no doubt that this a legitimate service, their marketing practices appear to be a bit troubling. Those reporting the Alignable invites to email@example.com often remark that they do not know the person who sent the invite. Others complain that they did not sign up for the service but yet everyone in their contact list has been spammed.
These complaints are not just coming from our community. The Better Business Bureau has 19 similar complaints. While Trustpilot gives it a 51% excellence rating and a 40% bad rating with very little in between. When you see ratings on the extreme ends of the spectrum like that, that usually indicates that a bot is posting the good reviews.
Scouring the rest of the internet, influencers indicate that it is an amazing tool that you should try while other folks warn to stay away unless you want to spam your contacts. It is difficult to know what the real story is.
What I can tell you is unhappy users have experienced the following:
- They have been signed up for the service when they click the cancel button on the would-you-like-to-join dialog box.
- They have had their entire contact list spammed with invites without their permission.
- They have had invites sent out on their behalf without ever joining the service.
It is not possible to say whether these actions are deliberate or Alignable has a glitch in its service. Either way I suggest that before you accept one of their invitations, you treat the email like any other coming into your inbox and contact the person who sent it to you to make sure it is legitimate. While you are at it, you should ask them about their experiences with the platform. If they give you green lights, then you are good to go. If not, delete the email.
What have your experiences been with Alignable? I would love to hear about them. Please post your comments below.
The latest phishing email to arrive in MRU inboxes is this beauty that looks like it comes from The Spamhaus Project, an international organization that creates block lists of spammy and phishy email senders.
This email is a bit clever as they use a link to the real Spamhaus Project website to try and convince you the email is legitimate while threatening to block your email address. Unfortunately the painfully bad grammar, zip file attachment and wrong email address clearly mark it as a phishing attempt.
You have to give them credit for trying though, if you are in a hurry and don’t take the time to read the email carefully, the odds are pretty good you will panic and click. Don’t get caught, slow down and stop and think before you click.
In the When to use your @mtroyal.ca email address article, I outlined some general guidelines on how to determine which email address you should use for creating accounts and accessing online services. This article generated a slew of questions related to availability of email accounts once someone leaves the University. I thought it would be helpful to clarify who gets to keep their accounts, under which circumstances and why.
Our email policy states
The University provides an email account to all faculty, staff and students to be used in the course of their duties or activities at the University. The University may also provide an email account for alumni, retirees, and professor emeriti, as well as other at the discretion of the University.
All email accounts and associated addresses are the property of the University.
So what does this actually mean and how is this policy implemented? Well that depends on who you are and under what circumstances you leave the University.
- If you are a staff member your access to your email will be terminated regardless of why you leave. This is to ensure business continuity.
- If you are a faculty member the same rule applies unless you are leaving due to retirement. Retired faculty members get to keep their emails as long as they adhere to the email policy. This is part of their collective agreement.
- Students retain permanent access to their email account.
Regardless of who you are and why you left, the University owns the email account and at any time they can revoke your access. The most common reason is not following the email policy. However it is at the discretion of the University to revoke it for any reason that they deem credible. Some of those reasons may be a change in policy or a change in email provider.
Therefore you should never consider your @mtroyal.ca email account to be yours for life. It is yours until the University decides it is not. That is why I suggested all MRU account holders follow the guidelines outlined in the When to use your @mtroyal.ca email address article. The guidelines ensures that you maintain access to your accounts even if your access to your @mtroyal.ca email address is lost.
Another thing to consider is FOIP requests. According to the email policy, any email sent with your @mtroyal.ca account is subject to a FOIP request regardless of whether the content of the email is personal in nature or not. If you don’t want your personal emails to show up in a FOIP request, don’t use your @mtroyal.ca account to send them.
If you have any questions about email access or the email policy please contact the Service Desk, they will be happy to help.
In today’s modern world, the lines between our personal lives and our work or school lives often becomes blurred. We are shopping on Amazon on our lunch hour and answering University emails from our laptop at home. This often makes it difficult to determine when you should use your @mtroyal.ca email to sign up for an account or service and when you should use your personal email.
A good guideline is to use your personal email address for anything that you want to use or have access to even if you aren’t working or attending Mount Royal University. For those services and accounts that you will only access WHILE working or attending the University, use your @mtroyal.ca email address.
When sending university related emails, use your @mtroyal.ca account. It reduces the chances your email will be mistaken for a phishing attempt and reported to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following these guidelines reduces our network’s exposure and vulnerability. It also makes it easier for you to maintain access to services and accounts when you retire, graduate or work for another organization. In addition, it means you will get fewer notifications from us that your email was part of a data breach. Less work for us, less hassle for you…everybody wins!