Scammers and spammers bombarding e-mail inboxes

Even with system filters, spam can sneak by with new tactics like phishing.

Emily Banks

The information superhighway can be dark and dangerous, especially when it leads to an unsuspecting e-mail inbox.

That’s because 90 percent of e-mails are now spam, according to Postini, an e-mail security company.

The University uses an elaborate filter system to prevent thousands of unsolicited e-mails from reaching University accounts, said Steve Cawley, the University’s chief information officer and associate vice president.

spam

How to report spam:
1. Forward the e-mail to: [email protected]
2. Forward the e-mail to the company, bank or organization impersonated in the e-mail.
3. For University e-mail accounts, contact: [email protected]

For more tips on how to protect yourself online, go to: www.onguardonline.gov

In 2000, the University created an office of IT security to deal with viruses, network security threats, configuring the University’s firewall and other ways to protect the cyber campus.

When it first began, the office ran on $200,000. Now it has a $1.8 million budget, Cawley said.

“We’re pretty aggressive in trying to block it, but unfortunately the spammers are getting better and better,” he said.

New spam techniques, such as phishing, concern Cawley the most.

Phishing e-mails lure people to phony Web sites, usually claiming to be a bank or business familiar to the recipient that needs an update or confirmation.

“That’s particularly dangerous, because they know a little bit about you,” Cawley said. “It’s easier to trick you into going to one of these sites and giving your information.”

Cawley said the best way to avoid phishing scams is never to use an e-mail link as a route into a service and, instead, go right to the Web site.

“If you do online banking, even if it’s legitimate, always type out the URL. It’s probably bad practice to use those email links in general,” he said.

Computer engineering professor Joseph Konstan said falling for a phishing scam can have serious consequences, including identity theft, but they’re easy to avoid.

“Almost no legitimate bank will send you something with a link saying, ‘Your account looks like it has to be re-evaluated, please click here and log in,’ ” he said.

He suggested typing the Web site address or calling the bank or company the e-mail appears to be from.

Computer science senior said he receives “a ton” of junk mail.

Most of the barrage of spam comes from stores, he said.

“It used to annoy me and now I just delete it,” he said.

Murray said he also only goes to Web sites he knows and tries not to open any suspicious-looking e-mails.

The IT security office receives about a dozen e-mails a week concerning online security.

And, during the holiday season, the number of online scams will likely increase.

Konstan said the flurry of the season can lead to less concern about shopping online.

“I think people are more overwhelmed and rushed,” he said. “They’re more likely to seek out a place that looks like a good deal and not as likely to check out if it’s legitimate.”