As employees all over the world are working from home, criminals are ramping things up hoping to take advantage of the less secure networks that people tend to have at home. We have surges in phishing emails on campus and across the world related to working from home as well as an increase in malicious websites. It has gotten so bad the US Secret Service has issued a warning. Here are some things to watch out for.
The fake VPN
As employees struggle to setup a home office, they are signing up and downloading VPN services at record rates. While all of our employees have the advantage of using SRAS, many smaller organizations do not have their own VPN tool and are asking employees to install one on their home computer. If your spouse or roommate are in this situation, warn them to be very careful about what VPN they download. Cyberattackers are offering fake VPN services that download malware onto your machine in record numbers. Make sure they check reviews of the service to ensure it is reputable before they install it on their machine.
Fake COVID-19 trackers
As people attempt to live their lives and stay safe, many are turning to maps that track the location and incidence of infections. Criminals are getting wise and creating their own versions of these tracking websites that infect your computer with malware.
Some enterprising scammers have also created phone apps that supposedly track the infection rate but load your device with ransomware instead. Stick to well known and reputable websites such as Alberta Health Services and the World Health Organization to get your information about the virus and stay away from any apps related to it including ones that tell you how to get rid of it.
Phishing emails about working from home and COVID-19
Phishing email attacks are off the scale. Everything from fake emails from your organization about working from home, to offers of vaccines and cures. One of their favorites is fake GoFundMe pages with coronavirus victims pleading for medical help. Another is pretending to be a colleague who is quarantined and needs help.
You name it, the depraved are going to try it. During this time it is especially important to be vigilant. If you receive an email that doesn’t come from a Mount Royal email address, question its validity. While you are working at home, make sure you use your Mount Royal email address to send business correspondence. DO NOT use your personal email address. This will make it easier for your colleagues to stay safe.
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.
The MRU community is made up of a diverse group of people. Some of you just like to forward suspicious emails to email@example.com without really doing much investigation on your own. Others like to make a game out of looking for phishing red flags. While still others follow email processing guidelines, just like I have asked. Thanks to all of you, my job is never dull.
That said, we thought it would be a good idea to give all of you one more tool to help with the challenging job of identifying phishing emails. IT Services is proud to announce the launch of the MRU Phish Bowl. The Phish Bowl contains a collection of all the phishing emails that we have received over the past few years. When you receive an email in your inbox and you aren’t quite sure if it is malicious, you can now search the Phish Bowl for it. If the exact email or a very similar one is posted then you know it is malicious and you can simply delete it.
Each post in the Phish Bowl shows you what the email looks like, points out the red flags and lets you know how to deal with similar emails in the future. Not only is it informative but it is also educational.
If an email doesn’t appear in the Phish Bowl, it doesn’t mean that the email is legitimate. You will still have to use the other strategies that you have been implementing to determine if it is malicious. The Phish Bowl is only an additional tool, not a replacement for your current vigilance.
The Phish Bowl is also helpful for those of you who are not sure if they should forward an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or not. If you do a search and find the email already listed, you know there is no need to report it. If it isn’t, then you know you may have a new nasty that needs to be reported.
We will be updating the Phish Bowl as new reports come in. You can access it here, or from the MRU Cybersecurity Hub at mru.ca/cybersecurity. Look for the Phish Bowl link in the section titled Stay Informed.
The attackers are at it again, this time they have tried to hide behind threats of disciplinary action. Check out the latest phishing email to hit the campus:
This nasty thing mostly landed in spam folders. However, there are some of you that would have found this in your inbox. The premise is plausible and the pdf attachment looks harmless. If you were to open this email on your phone, the odds are very good that you would assume the email is legitimate. However if you open the attachment a nasty surprise awaits. This is a gentle reminder to double check the sender’s email address before you make a decision to act on an email.
Another day, another fake UPS email. Take a look at this sad excuse of a phishing email.
I really do expect more from an attacker. At least paste an out of focus logo into the email. If you want to steal my money, you should put in a bit more effort than this.
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.
Every month I send out a nice little phishing training email to give our wonderful users across campus some practice identifying them. Those people that click and are repeat clickers, work in IT or are a Cybersecurity Champion all tell me the same thing. They were trying to determine whether to click or not while they were in a hurry or while they were on their phones.
The dangers of doing this were highlighted in the Our Community article, I knew I’d been scammed which details how one of Mount Royal’s community members became a victim of a gift card scam. Now KnowBe4 has written its own article describing how one of their cybersecurity professionals clicked in three phishing training emails in two months. In both cases the individuals were well educated in how to identify a phishing email but were in a hurry and using their phones. The message that keeps getting repeated is to SLOW down.
Before you decide what to do with an email, STOP. If you are on your phone, deal with it later at your workstation. If you are in the midst of doing 100 things, deal with it when you have time to evaluate it properly.
Taking theses simple steps will help keep you from becoming a victim.
Tuesday morning was an exciting one for the security team. Over 900 inboxes received the following email.
I am delighted to report that a huge number of you were superheros and forwarded the email to email@example.com. Thanks to you we were able to block the target page and limit any damage. Even though so many of you spotted the email as a phish right away, with the high number of recipients Marketing and Communications made the unusual decision to issue a campus wide alert.
While we were investigating the incident, we discovered that the attacker spent a lot of time viewing our Payroll webpage. There is an excellent chance that the attacker will use this information in the near future to create another phishing email.
We are asking everyone across campus to keep an eye out for payroll or HR related phishing emails in the next little while. If you receive an email that appears to come from HR or Payroll, please check the email address for accuracy. If it is correct, please call the sender to confirm that they actually sent the email.
Should you find the email to be malicious, do what your colleagues did this morning and forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You too can be a superhero!
For a while now, I have been warning about clicking on links in emails from organizations that you know. Instead, I have encouraged all of you to visit the organizations website directly using a bookmark. A report of a new phishing campaign targeting Stripe users shows why this advice is so important to take.
This campaign involves an email that tells the intended victim that there is something wrong with their account details. They are asked to login to their Stripe account to update them and given a handy button that appears to take them to the Strip login page. The page is of course a spoof and although it looks exactly like the real one, all credentials entered are collected by the thieves.
The fraudulent page is set up so that once you have entered your credentials in the fake login page, they use them to log you into your actual account. From your point of view, nothing is amiss. They now have your login credentials, you are non the wiser and they have hours if not days to withdraw funds before you even notice.
Although this campaign is targeting Stripe users at the moment, the same tactic is used to target all sorts of users. This is a gentle reminder to not click on links in emails from organizations that you know, but to use a bookmark instead. If you don’t have the site bookmarked you can use a search results, however proceed with caution as more and more fraudulent sites are appearing there.
Those clever cybercriminals have come up with another tactic to get you to click on something you shouldn’t. Introducing the “I found an ID pass”, phishing email.
What makes this email so diabolical, is it has no sense of urgency. In fact it asks nothing of you at all. It simply lets you know that a pass was found and it is being mailed. It’s calm, indifferent manner lull’s you into thinking the email is harmless. It counts on the reader being so curious that they throw caution to the wind and click on the link to see whose ID was found. Quite ingenious really.
If you receive an email of this sort, delete it and wait for the mail to arrive.