Berry sees increase in email phishing scams

By Mike Myers, COM 250 Reporter

Edited by Sydney Munoz, COM 303 Editor

MOUNT BERRY, Ga. — Over the course of the past academic year, several phishing email scams have targeted students and staff at Berry College.

The practice of “phishing” involves criminals sending emails to unsuspecting recipients by disguising themselves as legitimate sources to gain access to personal data. This sensitive information may include passwords, banking information, or social media accounts, and can cause significant financial or personal harm to the victim. Those behind these schemes, which cost countless people millions of dollars every year, typically target mass audiences.

Berry’s Office of Information Technology is hard at work to stop the spread of the scams and to ensure the safety of students and staff after the increase of phishing emails at Berry this year.

Dan Boyd, Director of Information Security, said the most effective way to stop phishing is to make people aware of the telltale signs of the threats.

“Issues with spelling or grammar, requests to click on links, open attachments, all these things are the marks of a phishing email,” Boyd said.

Travis Helton, OIT’s PC technician, advised students and staff to always check the source of the email in question.

“Make sure you trust who it’s coming from,” Helton said. “Anything that seems too good to be true probably is.”

Protection banners are in place on emails that originate from outside the Berry College system. These banners prompt users to make sure they know the content is safe before taking action. The staff have also implemented a “report” button to send the suspicious email straight to information security officers for investigation.

OIT is planning ahead to eventually require faculty and students to turn on multi-factor authentication for logins, which increases security and denies criminals access to personal accounts by requiring the original user to verify if they actually logged in somewhere.

Project and Communications Manager Tonya Conway gave advice on how anyone facing a potential phishing scam can be vigilant.

“Just always err on the side of caution,” Conway said. “If you don’t think it looks right, it probably isn’t.”

These measures, along with phishing training and educational sessions, are just some of the efforts OIT is pursuing to help students and staff stay safe online.

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