Campus / News / May 14, 2008

Phishing e-mail scam hits Knox

A recent e-mail scam went largely unnoticed by the Knox Community this past Monday. The scam was a “phishing” e-mail message. In phishing, someone sends an authoritative looking message out that requests private information from users to send to a website. From there, the information is used to access accounts and credit cards. Despite the threat, the matter was dealt with quickly and without much attention.

According to Steve Hall, the senior associate director of the Computer Center, the staff at the Computer Center was unaware of the scam at first. It was not until after a call from President Roger Taylor, who notified them of the scam, did actions take place.

The message was delivered to 200 Knox e-mail addresses with a few from distribution lists. It is difficult to know how many people got the message without a detailed examination of list membership. The calls to the Help Desk in SMC did not increase from responses to this scam. There is no way to account the possibilities of the message being sent to other e-mail systems such as Yahoo mail. So far only a few faculty and Taylor have sent in complaints of the scam.

“I think the students have grown up in the internet world and are savvy to such scams,” said Steve Hall. “Most students have spent a fair amount of time on the internet so they would be used to phishing attacks.”

These types of scams happen several hundred times a year with most never making it through. According to Mr. Hall, this scam just happened to get through the detection methods because of how detailed the message was and the few who received the message. There is no worry that the process used for detection is at fault.

“It’s a learning device. It just does its job,” said Hall.

By and large, this scam went largely unnoticed by the Knox Community. These types of scams are not unique to the anti-spam technology and generally are caught and deleted. It is only the occasional slip in the cracks that make notice but also help teach the technology how to detect them for future cases.

Patrick Cogar


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