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Computing and Information Services



Phishing is online identity theft

Phishing is a form of identity theft where victims are lured into providing sensitive information, usually through email (although users can also be targeted by phone or text). Messages are designed to look like they are from trusted businesses or individuals (e.g. banks, government agencies and Durham University). Often they are trying to steal your identity or login credentials to gain access to your accounts and use them to commit other crimes.

The most common phishing attempts at Durham are emails requesting your user name or id and password by tricking you into clicking on a hyperlink that takes you to a fake login website.

Top tip: CIS will never ask for your password. Never reveal your password (for anything, to anyone) 

If you receive a phishing message to your Durham email inbox, please report it to:

How to protect yourself from phishing

CIS block on average over 90,000 emails a week from entering the Universities email system. No system is perfect and not all phishing emails can be identified immediately; becase some do arrive in your mailbox the best way to protect yourself is to learn how to recognise phishing messages. 

The presence of one or more of the following does not always indicate the email is a phishing attempt however, it does mean you should be vigilant about what you are clicking. Most phishing messages usually share some common traits:

An urgent request for information

The message may ask you to "verify" or "confirm" confidential information by replying to the email or by trying to get you to click a link to a website or form. It may be a time-sensitive warning, to bait you into acting without thinking. For example, "Your account will be deleted if you don’t respond immediately." Alternatively, “Your email will be lost or deleted”

Suspect links, attachments or email addresses

Links may lead to a fake website or may download malicious code onto your computer or device. You can preview a link by rolling your mouse over it. If the URL does not look right, do not click it! Attachments could contain viruses or malware. The sender's email address may be spoofed and not match the company it claims to represent.

Top tip: When visiting a Durham University log in site, always verify that the site is secure. A secure log in is indicated by "https://" in the URL along with either a lock symbol, green text or a green highlighted URL bar.

If none of these items is present, please check with the IT Serve desk.

Top tip: Never open unsolicited attachments or click links without checking the URL.

Errors and inconsistencies

This includes spelling, grammar, factual errors and inconsistent use of capital letters are common in phishing emails. 

Top tip: Look for spelling and grammatical errors, no corporate branding or poor quality overall.

What to do if you get "hooked"

If you think you have fallen for a phishing attack by clicking on the link provided in the email and attempted to log into a fake login page, you may receive an error notice after entering your credentials before being redirected to the valid page. Rerouting to a legitimate login page is intended to make you think that you simply entered your password incorrectly. If you suspect that your details have been compromised, you should change your password immediately and report it to the IT Service Desk  so that we are aware of the issue and, should you require further assistance. 

How phishing affects Durham

Phishing is a big concern at Durham and all other organisations In a typical month CIS' security team see about 5,500,000 incoming messages, with around 550,000 flagged as spam. As phishing techiniques are constantly evolving and shifting even with the best technology in place, some phishing attempts will get through, so vigilance is your best defence. 

Compromised accounts can be used to send spam and we scan outbound email for spam to identify these accounts and lock them down before this can happen. 

Top tip: Your Univresity credentials (user name and password) can be used to access both personal information and Durham University information too: by falling victim to a phishing attempt you put both you and the University at risk.

(24 Feb 2017)