The mob wants your password

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By Shannon Higgins

International mobsters want Ryerson’s mailing lists, says the school’s director of computing and communications services. Over the summer, Ryerson computers and email accounts were plagued by two aggressive viruses and an e-mail scam designed to access passwords and logins. Computing and Communications Services (CCS) was busy putting out fires throughout the month of July as phony e-mails snuck past Ryerson’s spam and phishing filters asking for students to “verify and update your web mail account immediately.” “The people are more interested in our mailing lists for spam, probably coming from well outside the country from organized crime,” said Stephen Hawkin of CCS. A second e-mail, disguised as a message from UPS (Universal Parcel Service), contained an attachment with a virus patiently waiting to decimate a new laptop. Another virus targeted Ryerson’s on-campus computers in the form of a pop-up asking the user to download ‘Antivirus 2009’. The request was just a hoax, as the Trojan virus and spyware downloaded whether the user selected ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Hawkin said the fast-working virus was designed to takeover the computer and gain access to private information and mailing lists. Michelle Cheng, a first-year interior Ryerson keeps iconic sign design student, worries her grades, fees and schedule might be ruined if her email and RAMSS account is compromised. “It’s a huge intensive program and if we can’t use it, that would be a big problem,” said Cheng. Although Ryerson’s computers are protected by two anti-virus applications, neither had knowledge of the Trojan virus and Ryerson’s computers had no protection upon receiving the pop-ups. However, once the virus had been reported to CCS, they were able to block the pop-up entirely. “We have internal clean-up and work with two anti-virus vendors — by the end of the day they had updated their filters,” said Hawkin. The messages are difficult to detect ahead of time and CCS relies on staff and students to report any problems. After the virus is caught, CCS can easily update Ryerson’s anti-virus programs to block the spamming entirely. “Once we see them we can stop them,” he said. To keep inboxes safe, CCS looks for high or unusual e-mail activity, which indicates that an account has been hacked. And, similar to a credit card company, any suspicious movement will prompt CCS to shut down the account. Hawkin asks students to ignore and immediately delete any e-mail that requests personal information such as your RAMSS login and password. Any suspicious messages should be reported to the CCS Help Desk at ext. 6806.

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