Phish & Spam and various other foul tasting email

Hello Malone Students, Faculty, & Staff:

The campus email services continue to be pummeled by spam and phishing attempts.  Roughly 80% of incoming email the campus receives is spam and gets filtered out before it even hits your inbox.

Over the lifetime of the current spam filter, 80% or 8,960,740 of 11,349,620 messages are spam

Inevitably some of this canned-meat goodness does make it through. Here is what to do when it does.

What is Spam?

Spam is a general term meant to refer to unwanted junk email. Innocuous spam comes in the form of advertisements, links to catalogs or web sites.

What is Phishing?

Blatently copied from Wikipedia on 29 Sept 2011: Phishing is a way of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. This is similar to Fishing, where the fisherman puts a bait at the hook, thus, pretending to be a genuine food for fish. But the hook inside it takes the complete fish out of the lake. Communications purporting to be from popular social web sites, auction sites, online payment processors or IT administrators are commonly used to lure the unsuspecting public. Phishing is typically carried out by e-mail spoofing or instant messaging,[1] and it often directs users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one. Phishing is an example of social engineering techniques used to deceive users,[2] and exploits the poor usability of current web security technologies.[3] Attempts to deal with the growing number of reported phishing incidents include legislation, user training, public awareness, and technical security measures.

A phishing technique was described in detail in 1987, and the first recorded use of the term “phishing” was made in 1996. The term is a variant of fishing,[4] probably influenced by phreaking,[5] [6] and alludes to “baits” used in hopes that the potential victim will “bite” by clicking a malicious link or opening a malicious attachment, in which case their financial information and passwords may then be stolen.

A couple recent examples of Phishing attempts:

From this morning (29 September 2011):

-----Original message----- 
 From: "" <> 
 To: redacted 
 Sent: Thu, Sep 29, 2011 03:54:59 GMT+00:00 
 Subject: Re: FW: End of Aug. Statement Reqiured 

 Good day, 
 as reqeusted I give you inovices issued to you per sept. 
 Download Invoice<> 


And another from a  last week:

From: Western Union transfer is available for withdrawl []
Sent: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 4:41 AM
To: <redacted>
Subject: Western Union transfer is available for withdrawl

Dear customer.

The amount of money transfer: 5130 USD.
Money is available to withdrawl.

You may find the Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN) and receiver's details on Western Union website (click on the link below):


Western Union.
Customer Service.

You can tell that the above are phishing attempts in a couple ways:

  1. You were very likely not expecting an email regarding an end of month statement or a Western Union money transfer
  2. In the former, it is from a bogus email address (this is not always the case but in this example it is).
  3. The source for the download does not match the sender or even a well-known source. The second email is tricky. It mixes legitimate links in with not-legitimate ones. You would have been infected or dup’ed when you tried to download the  “MCTN.pdf” file. The link was legitimate.
  4. There are obvious spelling and or grammatical errors (The former has them, the latter does not).

Tips for sending messages so your recipients to not think your message is spam:

  1. If you attach a document, make sure you tell them that you are attaching the document and perhaps offer a brief description of the contents.
  2. If sending links, stick to well-known web sites or clarify if the sites are not.

What do I do?

  • If you can tell it is spam or a phishing attempt, you can discard the message. Do not click any of the links.
  • If you are getting a lot of Spam, let the IT Help Desk know
  • If you are not sure whether an email message is legitimate, you can contact the help desk or even forward it to helpdesk AT malone DOT edu.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We’re on Twitter!