Cybersecurity Blog

Is it spam or is it phishing? 05/23/19

 

 

I am truly delighted with the number of malicious emails that are being forwarded to abuse@mtroyal.ca.  The Mount Royal community is doing a great job of letting us know what to look for and helping us defend their data. There is one question that people keep asking though, what is the difference between Spam and a phishing email? I thought I would take a moment to clarify.

Spam email
  • Goal is to sell you something.
  • It is sent to hundreds or thousands of people at a time.
  • Reading the email does not generate an emotional response.
  • It may or may not contain links
  • Clicking on the links will take you to the organizations website.
Phishing email
  • Goal is to steal your data or use your workstation as a tool to access data on other people’s devices.
  • It can be sent to thousands of people or just one or two.
  • Reading the email generates an emotional response.
  • It may or may not contain links and or attachments.
  • Clicking on the link or opening an attachment takes you to a fake web page and/or loads malware onto your device.

The easiest way to determine if what you are dealing with is spam or phishing is by examining the purpose of the email. If it looks like they are trying to sell you something, then it is probably spam. If it looks like they are trying to confuse or trick you, then it is likely phishing.

Spam emails should be marked as spam by clicking the stop sign icon in the Gmail menu bar. Phishing emails should be forwarded to abuse@mtroyal.ca. If you aren’t sure which one it is, forward it to abuse@mtroyal.ca and we can let you know.

 

Fake package tracking email found in MRU inbox – 05/14/19

The latest phishing attempt is quite lovely.  The criminals have made it purposely vague with the hope that it will peak your curiosity. Here is what is looks like.

 

If  you have recently ordered something online. curiosity could get the better of you. If you click the link, this is what you find.

 

 

You were promised a PDF, which is usually but not always safe to open. However, you are given a Word document instead. It’s the old bait and switch. Having navigated to this point safely, you are more likely download the document. Of course if you do, malware is downloaded with it.

Remember troops, stop and think before you click. Stay safe out there.

Another Rahilly phish making the rounds – 05/08/19

The gift card scammers are giving another go at trying to convince employees that our new president Dr. Rahilly is trying to contact them.

 

 

This time they have managed to get his name correct, replacing the much loved Tin with Tim.  They have also changed up the email address going with presidant to make it look more official.  Although if they had spelled it right, it would have been more effective.

This is just another attempt at a gift card scam. If you check the sender’s email address before you read the body of the email, you will be less likely to have emotion override rational thought and reply in haste.  If you are contacted by the “presidant”, just delete the email.

 

Think you won’t ever be tricked? Think again. – 05/03/19

Mount Royal has been targeted by the gift card scam for months now. It seems like every month we receive a dozen or so reports of emails that appear to come from Mount Royal supervisors asking employees if they are available. The scammers hope they will get a response. Once they have one, they attempt to convince the employee to purchase gift cards and send them the redemption codes.

Last week the scammers came very close to being successful. A Mount Royal employee responded to the scammer and was about to go out and purchase gift cards as instructed when they thought they should double check with their supervisor’s admin. This sober second thought saved them hundreds if not thousands of dollars and a lot of embarrassment.

You are probably thinking you would never get sucked in like that. But dollars to doughnuts, that employee who responded thought the same darn thing. When our emotions get engaged, rational thought is bypassed.  Hackers know this, that is why they create emails designed to do just that. You may think you cannot be tricked however when you receive an unexpected email that appears to come from your boss, your emotions get engaged. Rational thought is gone and all you want to do is follow instructions and make your boss happy.

So how do you defend against such an attack? When you open any email, the first place your eye needs to go to is the sender’s information. You need to engage rational thought before emotions can be triggered by what is in the rest of the email.

Check the email address and make sure it is legitimate. If the email address is not a Mount Royal address then you know it isn’t coming from your supervisor and it can be deleted. Only once you have established that the email address is correct do you read the email itself. Remember that the email may still be malicious. Just because it looks like it came from your boss, doesn’t mean it did. Their email may have been compromised. Look for red flags and if anything seems amiss contact your supervisor to make sure they did indeed send the email.

 

Must Read – No we don’t have a secret email service – 04/23/19

A new phishing email is showing up in MRU Inboxes and Spam folders.  It looks like this:

The first question you should ask is why would you receive an email about unread messages? However, if the panic over missing out on 2 messages throws common sense out the window, a glance at the sender’s email address should alert you.  If you miss that clue and click on the REVIEW NOW link in a desperate attempt to avoid missing out, it takes you to this web page:

If you have gotten to this point, there is a good chance you will think that MRU has a secret email service outside of Gmail that you weren’t aware of. As a result, you will have no issues with entering your Mount Royal login credentials to access the mysterious messages. That is exactly what the hackers are hoping you will do. Once you do, Bob is your uncle, and they have control of your Gmail.

Let me assure you that the only email messages you will every receive from Mount Royal University will come through and be received via Gmail. You will never have to login to another email service to receive messages.

If this or a similar emails show up in your Inbox or Spam folder, delete them. If you ever have questions about the legitimacy of  an email that you have received from us, please forward the email to abuse@mtroyal.ca and we will be happy to investigate for you.

What to do with email in your Spam folder – 04/23/19

 

 

At Mount Royal University, we now have lots of diligent users reporting phishing emails to abuse@mtroyal.ca. The IT security team is over the moon with the wonderful responses we are getting. However, we are getting quite a few that people find in their Spam folder.  So I thought I would take a moment to explain how your Spam folder works and what to do with the emails that find their way there.

First off, for those who have no idea what I am talking about, your Spam folder is found in Gmail. Email that Google thinks is malicious or spam is sent there. Often its links and/or attachments are disabled or removed. Google determines if an email is malicious or spam using a variety of criteria. Examples of this criteria include containing known malware or phishing links.

Occasionally newsletters you subscribe to or emails from vendors can end up in the Spam folder by accident. That is why the emails aren’t deleted outright. You have the opportunity to scan through the folder and check and make sure nothing that you actually want to receive has made its way there.

As the Spam folder can fill up pretty quickly with hundreds of emails, I usually recommend that once a week you take a quick scan through your spam and then delete its contents. This prevents you from getting overwhelmed with an overloaded folder.

If you find a phishing email in your Spam folder, Google already knows about it and doesn’t need to be notified. However if you find one that is especially concerning and think the Mount Royal Community should be warned, please forward it to abuse@mtroyal.ca. When you do, let us know that it came from your Spam folder so we know who needs to be notified.

For more information about the Spam folder, how to mark or unmark messages as spam and other spam related questions, check out Gmail Help.

 

Must Read – The impersonators noticed we have a new president – 04/18/19

The Mount Royal impersonators are continuing their gift card scam. However, they have figured out that we have a new president and they have changed tactics accordingly.  The latest phishing emails appear to come from Dr. Tim Rahilly.

This causes concern for two reasons. First, they are obviously monitoring our website for information to put into phishing emails. Second, as Dr. Rahilly has not yet officially begun his term there may be some confusion about his email.

To clarify things, he has had an official Mount Royal email address for quite some time. If you receive an email that appears to come from him, please check the email address to ensure it is correct. If you are unsure, please forward it to abuse@mtroyal.ca and we will check it for you.

 

Another variation of the MRU imposter phishing email – 04/02/19

Once again miscreants are trying to catch our employees off guard by hitting them with a phishing email that appears to come from a fellow Mount Royal employee.  Fortunately for us, our employee identified the odd email address and stopped the attack cold.

The clever criminals added some distracting details to try and trip up their intended victim.  They added a Re: to the subject line plus a fake time and date stamp to make it look like the email was a reply to a previously read email. They know we tend to trust email replies and they bet that the odd email address wouldn’t be noticed. They were wrong.

Our superhero employee saved the day by forwarding this bad boy to us instead of clicking on the nasty link.  Keep a look out for this one.

 

 

If it shows up in your inbox, be a superhero and forward it to abuse@mtroyal.ca.

 

Must Read – Mount Royal targeted with pdf containing malicious link – 03/25/19

The last few weeks there are been an unusually high number of targeted attacks on post secondary institutions. The latest phishing email shows a continuation of the trend.  The email that arrives in your inbox looks innocent enough.

 

 

Innocent enough if you don’t notice the totally wrong email address. For fun, lets pretend that you did indeed ignore the email address and opened the attachment. You are presented with this document.

 

 

Once again the crooks are using a malicious link in a legitimate document to bypass the firewall and antivirus. Clicking the Open button takes you to a compromised website. As our firewall recognizes the malicious URL, I can’t tell you what awaits as the site is being blocked. However, from the email content I assume you will be given a fake login page for Outlook or OneDrive designed to steal your credentials.  This is just a gentle reminder to check the sender’s email address before you click on a link or open and attachment.

 

Must Read – MRU inboxes receive malicious Google Drive file share 03/20/19

Another day, another clever criminal trying to break into our network. This time they tried using the Google Drive to do it. Tuesday morning several employees found this in their inbox.

 

 

The Word Doc link is totally legit.  If you click the link, it takes you to this document.

 

 

Clicking the link in the Word document takes you to a legitimate website that has been compromised. The site asks you to login to Office 360 to access the document. Of course if you do, you are giving some miscreant your Office 360 login credentials.  They can then sell your credentials on the dark web or use them themselves to wreak havoc on your data as well as the data of others. Fun, Fun, Fun.

Because the Google Drive file share and the website are legitimate, they won’t be flagged by anti-virus or the firewall. It is actually very clever. However although it may get by the technology, a person can easily spot this as malicious. In fact, we had two different reports sent to abuse@mtroyal.ca about this one. Way to go MRU!!

For those of you who aren’t already yelling at the screen, “Come on, that is so obvious”, I am going to walk you through the red flags.  First one is the email is sent by Benjamin Kuiper from the email address benkuiper3000@gmail.com. Clearly not a Mount Royal email and he is not listed in the directory. Fail number one.

Second, the doc says it was being shared by Benjamin and David Hyttenrauch. This doc was sent to people on David’s team so even though they didn’t know who Ben was, they sure as heck knew who David was. This got the desired attention. However, you can’t send an invite to share one file from two people. Clearly, this Word doc was shared by Benjamin and the sneaky dude entered the rest of the deceiving information into the Add a note field in the Share with others dialog box to make it looks like Dave was involved. Fail number two.

Third, when you open the document it tells you that you  have a file waiting for you on the OneDrive. OneDrive file shares are not sent with links in Word documents. Fail number three.

Lastly, if you were to hover over the link in the Word document you would see that it does not go to OneDrive. Fail number four.

As clever as criminals are, most of them can be stopped by alert employees who take the time to look at emails with links and attachments critically.  As we have seen in this example, the majority of the time phishing emails contain clear clues that something is not right. Don’t get caught up in the emotion of the moment. Like our wonderful employees, take the time to really look and make sure that the email is what it appears to be. Your data, your colleagues and your IT department will thank you.