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Community Awareness – Efforts to Reduce Incidents of Email Spoofing

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

In the past several weeks the university has experienced an increased number of phishing attempts by bad actors using spoofed emails that appears to be from senior members of the university, such as the President, the Provost and the Deans/VPs.  These perpetrators modify the email headers of their emails to make them appear to be coming from university leaders you know. 

There are technical solutions available to help us combat these attacks, which the Office of Technology Services is in the process of implementing, but it is just as important that we as a community keep on the lookout for such malicious attempts and take the appropriate actions.  Here are a few things that you as a member of our community can keep in mind or do to assist us in thwarting these attempts:

  • Many of the recent spoofed emails were short messages asking the recipient for a favor and to email them back.  Please be suspicious of these types of emails.
  • If you use your web browser (Chrome, Firefox, etc.) or the Gmail application on your smartphone or tablet to read emails, you will see warnings to help you identify a potentially spoofed email.  Please see the below-listed example.

  • In the event that you do receive an email that you believe to be spoofed or a phishing attempt, use the reporting tool in Gmail, which assists Google in fine-tuning its alert algorithm.  Doing so, will enable Google to quickly classify the sender as an email-spoofer and block any additional messages from that source before they reach other members of IIT!  To learn more about reporting phishing attempts, please see the attached guide.

As above-mentioned and previously communicated, OTS is implementing measures to add an extra layer of protection against spoofing and phishing attempts.  Due to the recent spike in incidences, to help you identify these bad-actor emails, OTS is moving up one of the dates in the previously released timetable. 

Specifically, beginning today, Thursday, May 14, 2020, OTS will  ‘turn on’ the “[EXTERNAL]” flag feature, which will appear on emails coming into IIT’s email server from outside the defined university environment.  This means the system will automatically add the word “[EXTERNAL]” to the subject line of such emails so as to alert the recipient that the incoming email originated from beyond the confines of Illinois Tech.

Please note that the appearance of this message on an external email does not necessarily signal that the email is cause for concern; instead it is meant to remind you to pause before deciding whether it is prudent to respond.  In addition because not all systems have been upgraded as yet, there may be a few legitimate emails that mistakenly get flagged with the “[EXTERNAL]” designation.  We hope to have all system upgrades completed by the end of this month.

If you have any questions about phishing, spoofing, or spam on the Mies, Rice, or Moffett Campuses, please contact the OTS Support Desk at supportdesk@iit.edu and if you are on the Downtown Campus, please contact the ITS Help Desk at helpdesk@kentlaw.iit.edu.

Thank you for your partnership in this initiative to keep our network more secure.

Sincerely,

The Office of Technology Services