In a recent hacking scheme targeting the university community, recipients received e-mails begging for money that came from familiar addresses.
A recent hacking scheme attempted to dupe members of the Temple community into giving up their money via an e-mail scam about its sender being stranded in London.
On Jan. 20, the university was notified of the scam through an e-mail from Chief Information Security Officer Ken Ihrer, who said to be wary of any suspicious e-mail that may be sent from a familiar address.
Specifically, Ihrer warned students against a message that contained an elaborate story about how the sender was mugged at gunpoint in London and left with no money and no way to leave the country.
The message began: “I’m writing this with tears in my eyes, I came down here to London,England for a short vacation and i was mugged at gun point last night at the park of the hotel where i lodged all cash,credit cards and cell were stolen off me [sic].”
The sender then went on to plead with the e-mail recipient to lend money so he or she could return home.
The account that sent the original scam e-mail belonged to a Temple staff member. The hacker not only broke into the staff member’s Gmail account, but also into the person’s Facebook account.
After investigating, Ihrer discovered that the hacker’s motive was to appropriate money from friends of the staff member and have it sent to a Western Union account.
In a similar scheme on a broader scale, Google recently grabbed headlines after China-based hackers breached Gmail accounts, tech firms and other institutions.
“There have been plenty of attempts to extort money out of people,” Ihrer said. “This particular type of request is relatively new.”
While e-mail spam is usually easy to filter from the system, this particular case was slightly more difficult, Ihrer said, because it came from a valid sender’s account.
Ihrer explained that since the e-mail account was compromised, all restrictions have been positioned to ensure that this e-mail is now blocked. He does, however, advise members of the Temple community to be skeptical of peculiar e-mails and to “pick up the phone” and call the sender if they have any doubts about e-mail validity.
Many students said the e-mail was not rational enough to respond to if they had indeed received it.
“Nobody is that formal and prefaces things in e-mails that way,” Kevin Stack, a junior theater major, said.
“I know the style of my friends and colleagues that e-mail me,” freshman sociology major Katherine Zuk said, “so if it was out of character, I wouldn’t respond.”
Angelo Fichera can be reached at email@example.com.