Hacking, phishing and spam during these times

By Michael Boyd
March 27, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, organizations are busy adjusting to how they serve customers. Individuals are adjusting, too. Working from home is now a way of life for many, including Southwest students and employees.

There are others who are just as busy and making as many adjustments. They are the hackers.   These individuals attempt to gain access to personal and business computers and servers without permission. They use a variety of techniques to get in undetected. Hackers now are masking themselves as either coronavirus sites or as essential businesses.  Here are two ways they hide their identities and nefarious intent:

  1. Hackers copy legitimate coronavirus information sites, stage them to appear in Google searches ahead of the real site and when the unsuspecting surfer clicks on the site, the hacker’s malicious software infects the surfer’s machine.
  2. Hackers phish unsuspecting email recipients under the guise of a grocery store or chain offering a $100 gift card, for example. The offer asks the recipient to input personal information in exchange for the fake gift. This could lead to identity theft and all the horrors that come with it.

Southwest students and employees are not immune to these attacks. You easily could be targeted by a fake email or website.  Don’t be a victim. Be vigilant.  Follow these precautions to avoid being hacked or having your identity stolen:

  1. Never click on a link in an email from someone you do not know.
  2. Check the actual website address of sites that show up in your search engine. Is it off by one letter or does a number appear where a letter should be?  It is safer to type the actual address of the site you want to visit into your browser and get to it that way.
  3. Never share personal information over the Internet or through an email solicitation.  Southwest would never ask for your personal information. We already have it. We would only verify your identity by requesting your Banner ID or Student ID number, never personal information like a password, social security number, mother’s maiden name or the like.
  4. If you become suspicious, follow your gut. Forward the suspicious email to the Southwest help desk at helpdesk@southwest.tn.edu to verify whether it is safe. The help desk agent will respond.

Southwest Information Technology Services is here to serve and protect in the cyber world. Our goal is to help you access and use technology to its fullest potential as you teach, learn and work at the College. Please continue to call with any questions or to report suspicious activities so that we may achieve the highest level of cyber security possible as we move through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

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