Author Archives: Gerald Johnson Jr.

Guard Yourself Against Identity Theft

Protecting your identity while online is one of the biggest steps you can take to prevent yourself from being a target of a cyber-attack or identity theft.  While many of us may think it won’t happen to me, or why would anyone want to steal my identity? Hackers are equal opportunity and will search for vulnerable users to exploit. Here are a few simple tips to lower your risks.

  • Don’t over share.
    • Things such as your date of birth, children’s, or pet’s names can be used to try to determine your password.
    • Vary your user names, while it may be hard to remember them all for different sites it will ensure if one account is compromised they won’t all be.
    • Try to avoid user names that give up too much information as well. Avoid using your email handle as your user name, while it may help you keep track, again if the account is compromised now your email address may be compromised as well.
    • Consider having two separate email addresses. One you use strictly for banking and other financial needs, the other for social media and shopping.
      • This could help identify a phishing email, if say you get a message about your bank or credit card account, and it’s linked to a different email address.
  • Be selective with who you add on your social media sites.
    • If you aren’t personally familiar with the person sending the request you may wish to ignore or deny that request.
      • Many hackers/scammers use social media to try to either scam users into sending them money or to hack their account to get the users contact info, as well as the contact for their friends.
  • Use different passwords for each site.
    • Having different user name and password combinations will help keep your accounts protected.
      • This would be especially helpful for your online banking accounts or credit card accounts.

Detailed information regarding Identity Theft scams and other IT security topics are available on our IT Security website at: or from our blog at

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact IT Customer Care at (718) 817-3999 or via email to:

Alert: Tragic Event Related Scams


“In the wake of Sunday’s tragic event in Las Vegas, US-CERT warns users to be watchful for various malicious cyber activity targeting both victims and potential donors. Users should exercise caution when handling emails that relate to the event, even if those emails appear to originate from trusted sources. Event-related phishing emails may trick users into sharing sensitive information. Such emails could also contain links or attachments directing users to malware-infected websites. In addition, users should be wary of social media pleas, calls, texts, fraudulent donation websites, and door-to-door solicitations relating to the recent tragic event.

To avoid becoming victims of fraudulent activity, users and administrators should consider taking the following preventive measures:


Don’t be a victim of a phishing scheme!

Phishing is the act of attempting to deceive a user into divulging personal or confidential information such as login credentials, credit card information, etc., to gain access to resources that enable them to steal your identity.

Phishing scams usually come in the form of email messages and false websites. Cyber criminals use social engineering to learn about their targets and then use that information to try and gather your personal information.

Below is an example of a phishing campaign scam.


Things to look for to identify that you may be targeted include:

  • Spelling and bad grammar: Phishing emails are commonly plagued with spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Links in emails: Links in emails may appear as though they are taking you to a legitimate website however they can be disguised. Hover over (DO NOT CLICK)  links and see if you are being re-routed to some other page.
  • Threats: Some emails contain threats to include legal action, time sensitive materials, etc. These are designed to convince you to make a hasty decision and click a malicious link or open a unsafe attachment.
  • Spoofing a legitimate website or company: Some emails will appear to come from a legitimate company. However that is far from the case. Again, attackers will try to make everything appear to be legitimate but things such as suspicious URL’s (pages with names not associated with the website or company), or outdated information can be tell-tale signs something is not right.

Visit us daily for more tips tips during National Cyber Security Awareness Month starting October 2nd.

If you believe you are being targeted by a phishing campaign or have received a phishing email, please contact IT Customer Care at (718) 817-3999 or

Alert: Potential Hurricane Harvey Phishing Scams


Updated blog post at this link

Original release date: August 28, 2017

US-CERT warns users to remain vigilant for malicious cyber activity seeking to capitalize on interest in Hurricane Harvey. Users are advised to exercise caution in handling any email with subject line, attachments, or hyperlinks related to Hurricane Harvey, even if it appears to originate from a trusted source. Fraudulent emails will often contain links or attachments that direct users to phishing or malware-infected websites. Emails requesting donations from duplicitous charitable organizations commonly appear after major natural disasters.

US-CERT encourages users and administrators to use caution when encountering these types of email messages and take the following preventative measures to protect themselves from phishing scams and malware campaigns:

  • Do not follow unsolicited web links in email messages.
  • Use caution when opening email attachments. Refer to the US-CERT Tip Using Caution with Email Attachmentsfor more information on safely handling email attachments.
  • Keep antivirus and other computer software up-to-date.
  • Refer to the Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks for more information on social engineering attacks.
  • Review the Federal Trade Commission information on Charity Scams.
  • Verify the legitimacy of any email solicitation by contacting the organization directly through a trusted contact number. You can find trusted contact information for many charities on the BBB National Charity Report Index.


Alert: OK you’ve used a PIN, but did you use it smartly?

Don’t write PINs or passwords down!

This is an example of what you shouldn’t do. Try to protect your pin.

Be cautious of how you store important information such as this. You never know who is watching and what they are capable of.

Article: Hackers Say Humans Most Responsible for Security Breaches


Hackers Say Humans Are the Weakpoint and That Traditional Defenses Cannot Protect Them

Under the principle of set a thief to catch a thief, 250 hackers at Black Hat 2017 were asked about their hacking methods and practices. By understanding how they work and what they look for, defenders can better understand how to safeguard their own systems.

Thycotic surveyed (PDF) a cross section of hackers attending Black Hat. Fifty-one percent described themselves as white hats; 34% described themselves as grey hats using their skills for both good and bad causes; and 15% self-identified as out-and-out black hats.

The hackers’ number one choice for fast and easy access to sensitive data is gaining access to privileged accounts (31%). Second is access to an email account (27%), and third is access to a user’s endpoint (21%). All other routes combined totaled just 21%.

The hackers also confirmed that perimeter security, in the form of firewalls and anti-virus, is irrelevant and obsolete. Forty-three percent are least troubled by anti-virus and anti-malware defenses, while 29% are untroubled by firewalls. “Hackers today are able to bypass both firewalls and AV using well known applications and protocols or even VPN that hide within expected communications,” explains Joseph Carson, Thycotic’s chief security scientist. “For example, VOIP, streaming services etc. Because of the ability to hide within normal business applications or the use of authenticated stolen credentials, they are stating that these technologies are no longer sufficient to prevent cyber-attacks on their own.”

Overall, the hackers find MFA and encryption their biggest obstacles. “As hackers increasingly target privileged accounts and user passwords,” explains Thycotic, “it’s perhaps not surprising that the technologies they considered the toughest to beat include Multi-Factor Authentication (38%) and Encryption (32%), with endpoint protection and intrusion prevention far behind at 8% and 5 % respectively.”

Ultimately, however, the hackers believe that humans are most responsible for security breaches. Only 5% consider that insufficient security software is the problem, while 85% named humans as most responsible for security breaches. The problem is ‘cyber fatigue’.

Cyber fatigue is blamed on the constant pressure to obey policy and good practice. “‘Remembering

and changing passwords’ was the top source of cybersecurity fatigue (35%), a major vulnerability that hackers are all too willing to exploit,” notes Thycotic. “Other contributing factors included ‘Information overload’ (30%), ‘Never ending software updates’ (20%) and ‘Living under constant cyber security threats’ (15%).”

Perhaps surprisingly, hackers do not consider threat intelligence solutions to be an obstacle. “Because Threat Intelligence solutions are also accessible to hackers, they may be able to easily identify how they work and therefore avoid detection them,” suggests Thycotic.

The survey suggests that humans are a weakpoint, traditional perimeter defenses are ineffective, and user credentials are the target. “With traditional perimeter security technologies considered largely irrelevant, hackers are focusing more on gaining access to privileged accounts and email passwords by exploiting human vulnerabilities allowing the hacker to gain access abusing trusted identities,” comments Carson. “More than ever, it is critical for businesses to mitigate these risks by implementing the right technologies and process to ward off unsuspecting attacks and access to sensitive data.”

His conclusion is that “The new cybersecurity perimeter must incorporate an identity firewall built around employee and data using identity and access management technology controls which emphasizes the protection of privileged account credentials and enhances user passwords across the enterprise with multi-factor authentication.”


Alert: Online Scammers Require Payment Via Music Application Gift Cards

Via: IC3


Article: Three Telltale Signs a Hacker Has Been in Your Account


“Imperva’s latest Hacker Intelligence Initiative (HII)report, Beyond Takeover – Stories from a Hacked Account, was just released. With this research, we set forth to learn about the dynamics of phishing attacks from the victim’s perspective and shed some light on attacker practices. Our intent was to learn how accounts are taken over once credentials are compromised through a phishing campaign.

To achieve this, we maintained 90 personal online accounts (“honey accounts”) over nine months in platforms that are well-known phishing targets. We invited attackers in by leaking the credentials of these accounts to selected phishing campaigns and traced their activity.

One of the more interesting areas of the research was uncovering which practices attackers used to cover their tracks, destroy evidence of their presence and activities in the account, and evade detection. In this post, we’ll share attacker techniques, how they cover their tracks, and three signs that indicate your account has been hacked.

Phishing: A Glance at Attacker Practices

What Do Attackers Look For?

After leaving the front door open, it was interesting to watch what happened in the house once a burglar got in. We spread decoys as breadcrumbs to lure attackers into our traps and we saw many take the bait. We collected and analyzed alerts to reach the (not too surprising) conclusion that attackers first and foremost are looking for sensitive information, such as passwords and credit cards numbers.

Phishing decoys - types by percentage - 1

Figure 1: Distribution of accessed decoy data types

Manual Labor or Automatic?

We were curious to know if the attackers worked manually or used automated tools. To answer this, we checked timing of triggered tokens. We noticed that attackers approached tokenized items selectively rather than sequentially, e.g., only part of tokens were approached and not in any visible order. The time intervals between approaches were very different and ranged from a few seconds to over 10 minutes. Moreover, we saw that 74% of the first decoys were accessed within three minutes of account penetration, which indicates that attackers access the content online manually and do not download and examine it with automated tools. These observations together indicate that exploration of the accounts was primarily done manually.

How Attackers Cover Their Tracks (But Not All Do!)

Attackers can leave tracks behind during the attack process, such as generating suspicious new-device login alerts or spam messages in the sent items folder. Erasing evidence of a compromise is mandatory for an attacker who wants to remain obscure, continue using/exploring the account and avoid a trace back. We observed three different techniques attackers use to cover their tracks:

  • Delete sign-in alerts from the inbox (and permanently delete them from deleted items/trash)
  • Delete sent emails and failure notification messages
  • Mark read messages as unread

Our research also showed that not all attackers take equal care in covering their tracks. We were surprised to find that only 17% made any attempt to cover their tracks. And those who did sparingly used track covering practices (see Figure 2):

Percentage of track cover and track cover practices - 2

Figure 2: Percentage of track covering and track covering practices

Attackers’ oversight in covering up their tracks is key to identifying if an account has been hacked.

The Telltale Signs

Since not all attackers cover up their tracks, that means many leave evidence behind. This allows users to be aware that a hack has taken place if they’re looking for the right things in the right places. Here are three telltale signs that an attacker has been in your account.

Telltale Sign #1: Suspicious Sign-In Email Alerts

Following a hacker’s penetration into an account, a lot of visible hints are likely to remain which can be seen by a simple search for suspicious sign-in alert emails in the inbox.

In only 15% of the account penetrations, we saw that new sign-in alert emails were deleted from the inbox (see Figure 2). Even then, they were usually forgotten and left in the trash folder—only 2% of the attackers deleted a new sign-in alert permanently. Users should be on the lookout for suspicious sign-in email alerts in their inbox and periodically scan deleted items or trash folders for them as well (see Figure 3).

undeleted sign-in alert found in Gmail trash - 3

Figure 3: New sign-in alert found in Gmail trash, not deleted by a hacker

Telltale Sign #2: Messages Marked as Read (That You Didn’t Read)

Another technique we saw was attackers marking email messages as unread after opening them to bring the mailbox back to its original condition. Following is an example from a Yandex email log (Figure 4). Yandex is an email provider and search engine used in Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Turkey (their search engine has about a 65% market share in Russia). It’s used as an example here as other mail providers (such as Gmail, Yahoo and Microsoft Hotmail/Outlook) don’t contain activity logs for read/unread messages. This type of strange read/unread email activity indicates a hacker has been in the account.

email messages marked as unread 4

Figure 4: Examples in a Yandex activity log of a perpetrator marking email messages as unread after opening them.

Telltale Sign #3: Sent Items (You Didn’t Send) and Delivery Failure Notification Messages

Thirteen percent of attackers deleted emails they sent from compromised accounts (such as those sent to launch a new phishing campaign) as well as the failure notification messages, which inform the sender about the inability to deliver a message. These emails are typical when using the account for spamming purposes when the email provider identifies the spamming attempt and blocks the burst of spam emails. Of course, if 13% deleted sent items and failure notifications, then the vast majority—87%—did not and left evidence behind that they hacked the account.

Protecting Accounts

Despite the various actions attackers used for covering their tracks, many of them left considerable traces in the hacked accounts, showing that in some ways hackers are no different than their victims. Users can be lax when it comes to security awareness and get themselves in trouble by not being more attentive of their actions. Hackers can be sloppy too—their lack of attention can alert a victim that their account has been compromised.

If an account has been compromised, the first course of action should be to change the password. Two-factor authentication remains the tool of choice for protecting accounts from takeover, or at least a recovery email or phone number to be immediately alerted to alternative accounts/devices about possible threats to the account’s security. However, being watchful for attack hints like suspicious items in the sent items or trash folders, suspicious sign-in messages and messages marked as read which users don’t remember reading, can lead to early detection of account takeover and give the victim the opportunity to take back control of their account.”


How Risky is Your Online Behavior? (Training)

How Risky is Your Online Behavior?

It’s not if a cyber attack occurs at Fordham University. It’s when.

But that’s not only true for Fordham. It’s the reality throughout higher education, as well as in the business world.

You’ve already taken a few steps to reduce your and the University’s risk of a cyber attack. For example, your Fordham AccessIT ID password is at least 8 characters long. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is now part of your routine. This collective effort reduces some of our risk.

Do you need to do more? Yes, as long as cyber threats remain.

What can you do? It’s actually pretty easy. Learn when you’re engaging with technology in a risky way and then change your habits. We have just the tool for helping you: The online, self-paced UISO Security Training. To access, go to Blackboard ( and look for it under “My Organizations.”

About the UISO Security Training

As part of Fordham University’s efforts to address the increasing threats to the security of our digital resources and data, the University Information Security Office has made cyber security awareness training available on-line to the University community. The training is comprised of 17 modules, ranging from one to four minutes each. You can stop and continue the training as your schedule permits.

Each member of the University community has a responsibility to safeguard the information assets entrusted to us. This computer-based training program will better prepare you to fulfill this responsibility and to strengthen your defenses and the University’s against future attacks. Adopting behaviors that protect information benefits the University, and can benefit you and your family.

The training material will:

  • Provide information that will help mitigate the risk and subsequent impact of data exposure.
  • Teach you to protect your personal information, which reduces opportunities for identity theft.
  • Highlight the risks associated with social networking, email, and general Internet usage.
  • Explain the importance of password hygiene (e.g., strong and unique passwords).
  • Educate you on the importance of mobile and physical security best practices.

Why participate?

  • In the first 3 months of 2017, prior to the implementation of multi-factor authentication, over 80 Fordham employee AccessIT ID usernames and passwords were compromised as a result of phishing emails. Fortunately, that number has declined since MFA became required.
  • Untrained staff can unknowingly create security vulnerabilities. A recent study of 887 companies spread across 30 countries discovered that employee error caused 30% of data breaches.
  • Studies have shown that 48% of data breaches were caused by accidental data exposure.
  • Studies have also shown that weak, default, or stolen passwords account for 63% of confirmed data breaches in 2015.
  • The average cost of a data security breach is more than $158 per record. A breach involving only 50,000 records would amount to an approximate loss of $8 million dollars to the University.

Content designed for easy understanding and busy schedules

  • The training’s 17 modules are self-paced and can be completed in several sittings. You do NOT need to finish in one session.‎
  • You may pause and save your work and continue at another time. At the end of each subject area, you will be asked to take a short quiz to test your understanding of the material.‎
  • The total time for all modules is approximately two hours, however you do not need to view all of them in one session.

Access the training > Blackboard > My Organizations > UISO_Employees:UISO Security Training for Employees > IT Security Awareness Course > Continue to the home screen.


Alert: New DHL Phishing Emails Targeting Fordham Community

Please be advised that there are suspicious emails circulating that are targeting members of the Fordham Community. The email contains what appear to be images of package slips. However, the images redirect you to a malicious phishing site.

These are not legitimate emails and should be reported immediately.
Please remain diligent and avoid giving any personally identifiable information through email. Pay attention to the sender of the email and if something appears suspicious, contact the sender directly to verify the messages legitimacy. DO NOT respond via email. If direct contact with the sender is not possible, please contact ITCC for assistance.

The content of the email is as follows:

———- Start of Message ———-
From: DHL Service <>
Date: Tue, Jun 27, 2017 at 9:50 AM
Subject: DHL delivery details ……

Dear  Customer ,

Please find attached DHL AWB , pls printed and given to courier upon arrival .

Best regards

DHL Expess Team

DHL receipt.pdf
—————End of Message—————-


Please remember that Fordham IT will NEVER ask you for your username and password or ask you to click any links to validate or verify your account or password. If you receive questionable or suspicious communications, contact IT Customer Care and allow the University Information Security Office (UISO) to validate the legitimacy of these communication attempts.