Beyond the constant threat of new viruses, many other types of threats on the Internet are now becoming much more common. Anyone that is not alert today can suffer from threats ranging from unintentionally putting their work colleagues in difficult situations to downright extortion.

In the last few years, we have seen these online threats increase at an alarming rate, and the methods used are also becoming much more sophisticated. By educating yourself about what threats exist and how they can be used against you, you can drastically minimize your exposure from becoming a victim of an attack.

“The days of the Nigerian prince wanting to give you money are over.”

A particular form of threat that has become very common is called ransomware. It’s a form of harmful code that is injected into your computer through a link in an email or from websites that have been hacked. The malicious code would lock all your files and demand that you pay a specific sum of money to regain control of your documents. As you can imagine many people have important documents, pictures and other files that they do not want to lose, so they choose to pay. Malicious code can also be used for other purposes like extortion or collecting information like keystrokes for passwords or websites that you visit.

If you become a victim of a malicious code or social engineering attack (more about social engineering further down in this article), your email or Facebook account can often be easily hacked. Once an attacker has credentials to email or Facebook they try those same credentials on other common websites, as people tend to reuse passwords for several different online services. If you use the same username and password on several websites, please consider looking into password management software to help you create and remember unique passwords for each online service that you use. A free service that we recommend is called Enpass (https://www.enpass.io/). Password management software can initailly appear confusing, but are very easy to use. If you are interested, you should see the IT department who will be happy to show you in detail how to use Enpass.

We see social engineering often being used in emails where an attacker tries to trick you into clicking on a link in an email. The email could look as if it is coming from a legitimate source like hr@gps.edu, but in fact, the email could have easily been spoofed and the links within the email actually go to websites that look identical to a Facebook or Google login page that would either collect your passwords (aka phishing) or inject malicious code like ransomware or adware into your computer. See Figure 1 below.

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Figure 1: Email example

With these situations becoming much more prevalent, and specifically where attacks are also becoming very personalized, you can imagine that using technical means are no longer very effective against these types of attacks, especially those attacks that employ social engineering tactics. The IT department will continue to work to mitigate against attacks on a technical level, but we also see an incredible value in empowering the GPS community by informing you of hacker incidents and educating you about how to better withstand these attacks. Please know that we post information in almost every faculty newsletter with carefully selected information on how you can protect yourself.

A great resource that you should become familiar with is our Social Engineering Red Flags info sheet below. You can click on the image in Figure 2 to make it larger.

Social Engineering Red Flags

Figure 2: Social engineering red flags

Please continue to read our tips in the faculty post every week, stay safe and always think before you click.

 


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