Spammers find phishing hole

December 15, 2011

News Editor

When Tech Talk news editor Amie Rolland responded to an email from “Regions Bank,” she did not know she was one of millions that were targeted in a phishing scam.


Rolland answered her security questions, clarified her Social Security number, account username and passwords Dec. 8.


Tech network administrator Danny Schales sent an email to students explaining that a spam message claiming to be from Regions Bank got through Tech’s system Dec. 7.


“I read the email from Schales an hour after I responded,” Rolland said. “I was extremely pissed.”


Rolland was one of many students and Ruston residents who believed the spam message was authentic. Ruston’s Regions Bank, located at 1317 N Trenton Street, was constantly receiving phone calls and confused people coming in seeking answers to their questions.


Spammers send out an average of 250 billion spam emails each day. More than 80 percent are flagged as spam and never reach the intended target.


Within the last two weeks, students and faculty with a Tech email address were sent two “sphere-phising” emails, spam messages that target a specific person or organization, requesting they verify private information.


“Never click on the link,” Schales said.


Regions Bank, one of the two companies exploited in the phishing scam, gives the same advice. Regions Bank has an entire section on its website dedicated to informing customers about phishing and frequent problems that arise from spammers.


The website advises, “If you clicked on the link and responded to the information, you should report it immediately to the bank in order to initiate possible fraud prevention procedures.”


Schales said the best way to prevent being taken advantage of in common schemes, such as job offers, lottery winning and dating matches, is to exercise caution each time you read an email and familiarize oneself with the website.


However, Schales said there is no sure way to prevent all spam from getting through.


“The bad guys are getting a lot better at it,” he said. “They have all the time. They prey on other people’s good will.”


Although many people associate the word “spam” with annoying or harmful email, Schales is able to look past it and see it as a job.


“It may be junk to all of us, but it is advertising to them,” he said. “If you make a penny for every thousand messages sent and you send millions, that adds up.”


Whatever the value it has for spammers, many Tech students see spam as annoying email meant to scam people out of their money.


Tarek Kanafani, a senior professional aviation major, said he sees it as a nuisance that he does not even acknowledge.


“I don’t even look at it to be honest,” Kanafani said. “It is mostly for advertising and it is usually about something you don’t really care for.”


An overlooked advantage most people do not want to admit is a natural tendency to accept the truth.


Schales said people’s inability to critically examine the spam mail is a major reason for its high success.


“Sometimes people just don’t think,” Schales said. “Don’t trust your eyes. Websites are easy to duplicate. If you aren’t sure, then don’t click the link.”


Rolland said she learned this message after one inconvenient mistake.


“I felt stupid,” Rolland said. “I didn’t even think about it. I’ll never do it again.”


Email comments to jwf014@latech.edu.


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