Universities get phished

Phishing scams are increasingly targeting universities via e-mail accounts.

And, in the past week, two separate firms have sent out spam mail in order to solicit private information from Northern Kentucky University students, faculty and staff with e-mails that appeared to be from NKU addresses, according to the Office of Information Technology.

“If you look at the phishing that’s going on, it’s just a case of them present at NKU,” Associate Provost for IT Tim Ferguson said. “We’d blocked that, before most people on campus were aware that this was an issue.”

IT scans all inbound messages for spam senders. While the phishing e-mails Feb. 29 had “nkuadmin@nku.edu” listed as the sender, another set of messages, this time bearing “NKU Customer Service” as the origin, were announced March 2. Both asked for user’s e-mail information and password.

Neither actually came from NKU e-mail accounts.

Ferguson said, at first, the e-mails got through because the “vendors” had used a different identification. The flood of messages hit Thursday night and Friday morning, but IT had already blocked them by then.

The additional barrier, he said, minimized the harm. Reply messages to the spam were almost entirely blocked.

“For example, if a faculty member did reply to it, the reply would never make it back to the origination point,” he said.

Ferguson said that the purpose of the phishing was so the senders could access NKU e-mail accounts, and use them to send more spam via a reputable address.