Cybersecurity Blog

Emails that appear to come from MRU can be malicious – 11/30/2022

 

Bad actors are finding more sophisticated ways to impersonate email addresses and gain access to systems.  While many phishing attempts come from outside e-mail accounts, it is also possible that you may receive a phishing attempt originating from or forwarded from an email that has a “@mtroyal.ca” suffix.
If you receive an email originating from a mtroyal.ca email address that feels suspicious, there are a few ways that you can confirm whether the email is legitimate. Is the email from the @mtroyal.ca email account that the sender normally uses? If not, look up the sender in the internal directory, call them using the phone number in the directory and ask them if they sent the note. Do not use the number provided in the suspicious e-mail.
If you are still unsure, report the email to the IT Security team by using the PhishAlarm button or forwarding the email to cybersecurity@mtroyal.ca.

MRU slammed with fake Geek Squad subscription renewals – 11/25/2022

 

 

We have seen them before, the fake subscription renewals that arrive with the fake invoice attached. The hope is we will panic and call to cancel. When we do, they attempt to convince us that they over refunded us by thousands and demand we pay it back or they try to get us to install software on our machine so they can issue the refund. The result is an empty bank account, malware on your machine or both.

This week some very lazy attackers hit the campus with hundreds of these emails with various subject lines that all included the same fake Best Buy – Geek Squad subscription renewal invoice. I say they were lazy because the majority of them contained messages with no more than a word or two.  inboxes across the University were hit, many with several different versions of the same email.

I am delighted to report that instead of being taken in by these emails, dozens of people reported them. Our cybersecurity inbox was slammed and more reports keep coming in. Thank you to everyone who gave us a heads up.  Keep up the great work!

 

Campus flooded with fake ITS email notifications – 11/01/2022

 

While the trick and treaters were out collecting candy, cyberattackers hit the campus looking for their own treats…MRU login credentials. Over a thousand emails flooded campus inboxes. While the email subjects were varied, the contents were the same.

 

 

This email has two big red flags; the generic sending email address and the link that goes to a Jotform. While Jotform is a legitimate service used to create forms, much like Google forms, the use of the form was far from legitimate.  If you clicked the link you would be told that to access the pending emails, you would have to enter your MRU email credentials into the form. Once you do, the attackers have your credentials.

Of course as MFA is enabled on your account, they can’t just enter your stolen password and gain access to your email. They need to by pass the MFA. The most popular method at the moment is to bombard you endlessly with MFA prompts by repeatedly signing into your email. The hope is, you will get tired of being prompted and just tap, Yes it is me, just to get them to end. Some people finally give in.

I am proud to say that once these emails hit inboxes, the cybersecurity email was flooded with reports. Many of those reports included appreciation for the cybersecurity awareness training that prepared them for the attack.  Well done everyone!  Well done.

 

Scammers getting really clever with MasterClass phishing emails – 04/28/22

Over the last few weeks phishing emails with fake invoices from MasterClass have been popping up in inboxes all over campus.  I have been posting them to the Phish Bowl, but you can see an example here.

Most of you will have probably noticed that the attachment itself isn’t malicious.  Instead the scammers are hoping you will call them and ask for a refund. If you do, there a number of scams they can pull.

The simplest is asking for your credit card number so they can issue a fund to the correct card.  They assure you that the refund will appear on your credit card statement within 48 hours. Of course, no such refund is made. Instead they go on a 48 hour shopping spree on your dime.

The more sophisticated scams  take you through a “refund” process where they deposit funds directly into your bank account. They then show you a fake screen shot that indicates they accidentally refunded you too much money and then ask you to e-transfer the excess funds.  When you point out that the refund doesn’t appear on your online bank account statement, they say that it will take 24 hours to do so. If you ask to wait until it shows up, they say if they don’t fix the error now, they will get fired.  They can be very persuasive. Sometimes they will cycle you through several “supervisors” and “mangers” to convince you that the excess funds must be returned immediately.

Of course, they never charged your card in the first place, nor will you ever see the money refunded to your bank account. Instead you will have handed over thousands of dollars to the scammers.

Fortunately, it doesn’t appear as though there have been many people on campus who have fallen for this scam.  As a result, the scammers have upped their game. We are now seeing the following email arrive in inboxes shortly after the one I previously shared.

You see people are getting smart. The scammers are realizing that an email with an attachment maybe isn’t the best way to get people to call them. Instead, they have set up a remote support session. The diabolical part,  is this email comes from a legitimate service,  Zoho Assist.  So malware filters won’t think anything is amiss. Your only clue is the little note at the bottom that mentions the email comes from a generic email account instead of MasterClass itself.  This is something they hope won’t notice as the previous email has already got you thinking about that MasterClass subscription you didn’t sign up for.

I have to admit, this is very very clever. The good news is, if you take your time and look closely you can identify the scam and delete the email before things ever get to the excess refund stage.

New Google feature looks like phishing – 03/25/2021

 

Google has launched a new feature for Google meet. Any time there are more than two people in a meeting, you will automatically receive an attendance list attached to an email. This email has the name of the meeting in the subject line. This works great when you have created the meeting in your calendar and given it a name. The email makes sense and it looks legit.

However, if you create the meeting through the Google chat or the Meet button in the Gmail window, there is no way to give the meeting a name, so Google does that for you. As a result you end up with an email subject line that includes a bunch of random capital letters in quotes.

At first glance this email looks really, really phishy. You have this weird looking subject, an attachment and you didn’t request an attendance report. But if you take a closer look at the sender’s email address, you realize that this is in fact coming from Google and it is a legitimate email.

If you receive an email like this and you are uncertain what to do with it, then please report it. However, hopefully now that you have a little more information you won’t feel so quite uncomfortable when that odd email shows up unannounced from Google.

 

 

Scammers use subscription renewals to trick you into downloading malware – 08/03-21

 

A social engineering tactic dubbed Bazacall is making a resurgence. This attack method first appeared in March, 2021. It starts with an email that arrives in your inbox. They use a variety of scenarios, however all encourage you to phone a number to resolve an issue. Their favorites appear to be notifying you that a subscription is going to be renewed or that a free trial is over. Details on the nature of that subscription are often left out, making it more likely that you will call to clear things up.

When you call, the “customer service rep” on the phone directs you to a very realistic website. Sometimes these websites are spoofed sites of real businesses, other times the businesses are completely fictitious. Once you are at the website they walk you through the steps to cancel the subscription, telling you what to click. Everything seems perfectly legitimate until you reach the final step. The last click on the website opens an Excel file that asks you to enable Macros.  If you continue to follow the instructions of the “rep”, the malware is downloaded and installed on your computer. The type of malware varies but typically they give remote access to your machine, allowing the attackers to gain access to to other devices on the network.

This phishing attack method is particularly dangerous as the email doesn’t contain any attachments or links which allows it to pass through inbox filters. In addition when you open it, it looks official and innocent. After all what can happen if you just call to cancel a subscription that you don’t want? However once you call, the “rep” is very good at social engineering. He or she develops trust and insists that this is the only way to ensure the charge doesn’t appear on your credit card.

The best way to defend yourself against this type of attack is to recognize that emails with vague information about a subscription being renewed are malicious. Thankfully with this attack you have a second chance to defend yourself. You can refuse to enable Macros when asked.  Remember to use your common sense and don’t let yourself be bullied. There is no justification for enabling Excel Macros to cancel a subscription.  If it doesn’t make sense, hang up.

 

What exactly is the purpose of your spam folder? 05/27/21

 

The lowly Gmail Spam folder. It appears to collect nothing but garbage and is routinely ignored. It does however, have a function.  It’s purpose is to keep spam and malicious emails out of your inbox while still allowing you to review them. These suspicious emails  aren’t automatically deleted as Google recognizes it isn’t perfect and may wrongly identify an email as spam or malicious.

How should you manage your Spam folder? For the most part, it can be ignored.  If you find that you are missing an email, you can go looking for it. However, I don’t recommend checking your Spam folder daily. If you are worried about missing emails, then a weekly check should be sufficient.

If you find an email in your Spam folder that you don’t think should be there, don’t move it immediately to your inbox. Open it first and check the banner at the beginning of the message. Google lets you know why the message was put there. If it is because it was marked Spam previously, then it is safe to move to your inbox. If however, it indicates that it contains a malicious link or attachment then leave the email where you found it as Google doesn’t make mistakes identifying malicious emails.

Fortunately, malicious emails found in your Spam folder don’t need to be reported to the IT Security Team. Google is already filtering them from inboxes so we don’t need to alert your colleagues. This saves us from replying to 57.3 million emails.   You can simply delete them and get on with your day. Even better, let Google delete them for you. Messages in Spam that are 30 days old are automatically deleted.

 

Why is someone you know asking for your phone number? – 03/10/21

The MRU community have been finding emails in their spam folder similar to this one.

The email looks like it comes from a colleague or instructor. However the email contains some red flags.  The biggest one being they are asking for your personal phone number. If they don’t already have it, they shouldn’t be asking for it. In addition, it was found in the Spam folder.

Google puts emails that it thinks are suspicious but they aren’t sure of into the Spam folder. If you see an email in your Spam folder, assume it is malicious and always confirm legitimacy with the sender before you respond.  Confirmation is best done over the phone, however in situations like this where an MRU email wasn’t used, it is enough to contact the sender through an MRU email.

It is hard to say what the end game of this scam is. However, this is often step one in a gift card scam where they compel you to purchase gift cards and then give them the redemption codes. These redemption codes can then be sold on the dark web.

 

Is the etransfer notice from MRU malicious or legit? – 12/07/20

 

This past year, Student Fees began issuing refunds through Interac e-transfers.  Although students are notified in advance that a refund is coming, there is still some confusion about the legitimacy of these emails.

A sure fire way to ensure the refund is legitimate is to login to MyMRU and check your account balance. If you have been issued a refund, the amount will be posted there. If it matches the amount in the notification email then you know the e-transfer is legitimate.

If you are still not sure, you can email Student Fees at studentfees@mtroyal.ca and ask them if they sent you an e-transfer.

 

Not sure an MRU email is legit? Contact the sender. – 12/02/20

 

With phishing attacks on the rise and everyone being vigilant sometimes legitimate communications are flagged as suspicious. This week we had a student report their e-transfer refund notification. Last month it was Cybersecurity Awareness Month notifications and the month before that it was a survey. While I am absolutely delighted that people are erring on the side of caution, I thought I would share a little tip that might make it easier to determine if a communication is official or not.

Without exception, official communications include who to contact if you have questions. There may not be a name but there will always be a department or email.  Senders know that you may have questions and in true Mount Royal University fashion, we want to be able to help. If you are not sure if an email is legit, look for that contact information. Take note of it and then search the Mount Royal website or directory to find an email that either matches the one in the message or is for the department that sent the email.

Once you know you have legitimate contact information, create a new email asking for verification that the email is official. It only takes a couple of minutes and it will get you an answer faster than if the IT security team does the same thing.

Note that I am not telling you to use the links in the email to contact the sender. That is because some emails are sent using services and the URL for the links take you to that service before you are sent to the final destination rather than directly to the intended URL.  This makes it difficult to determine if the links are legit or not. To be on the safe side, just create a new email to contact the sender for verification.

I am hoping that my little tip, will empower some of you and make you feel more in control of your inbox. That said, we will always be happy to have you report those emails that you just aren’t sure of. Keep up the good work!