A number of institutions, including Austin College, have seen a large increase in the amount of spam coming into their email systems with attachments appearing to be harmless Office documents (primarily Word), but containing destructive malware. The malware was designed to send data from a computer to outside people, slow down the computer’s performance, and/or gain access to college systems.
It is important that each of us look carefully at any incoming email that is unexpected and do our best to determine if it is legitimate. Until you are confident a message is from a trusted source, do not open any of its attachments or click any of its links.
How can you tell?
There is no one foolproof way, but the following are some indicators that a message may be spam and cause harm:
- The displayed address of the sender is not from a domain related to other parts of the message (for example, a University of Tampa logo is displayed, but the sender’s address is email@example.com, instead of firstname.lastname@example.org)
- The topic of the message has no relevance to you
- The inclusion of an attachment or a link does not make sense in relation to the topic of the message
- Words are used out of context or inappropriately to the topic
- Words are misspelled
- A legitimate logo is placed in an unusual location on the message or is an unusual color
- Message text is oddly spaced
- The grammar of the message is unusual, for example not including conjunctions that would make the language flow smoothly
- Images are included inappropriately
Legitimate messages without malware can certainly include one or more of these indicators, but rarely do. A combination of these indicators and/or your own “feel” for the message can cause you uncertainty. In such cases, assume the message is not legitimate and ignore the attachments and links. If you think the message may be legitimate and is of interest to you, try contacting the organization through its public website.
Harmful spam is getting harder to detect. Please take the time to look more carefully at unexpected messages. Call the HelpDesk at x2063 any time you have questions.