Officials warn of more advanced phishing scams at Temple

A university official said more students are falling for phishing attacks.


Recent waves of phishing attacks on Temple students are more sophisticated than they have been in previous years, leading Temple’s Information Technology Services to bulk up email security for students, faculty and staff.

Though the total number of phishing emails sent to students has not increased, more students were falling for attacks, wrote Larry Brandolph, the university’s chief information security officer, in an email to The Temple News. 

Phishing attacks include text or email scams that try to trick people into giving away personal information, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

These scams are increasingly more profitable as personal information and finances become integrated with technology, said James Du, director of Temple’s security and networking lab. 

Temple has taken steps to tighten email security including using a service called Iron Pot, which blocks approximately 1.5 million spam emails from student inboxes every day, Du said.

It’s difficult to filter every email because the attacks are improving, Du said.

The university also sent out warnings over the summer about potential “vishing” attacks, which use phone calls and text messages instead of emails to scam students, Du said. 

“They imitate the real caller ID of contacts,” Du said. “There are a lot of measures taken to stop [email attacks], so they are moving to more and more alternatives.” 

Nick Dixon, a junior marketing major, said that he had received several phishing emails to his university email this summer, most of them filled with overgeneralizations and obvious grammatical errors.

“I just know I got them, and I deleted them right away,” Dixon said. “The contents were about becoming a dog-walker and other stupid stuff.”

This was the first time Dixon had seen phishing emails in his account and he could not remember any he had gotten before the end of the spring semester, he added.

Anna Hirsch, a senior advertising major, said she received five phishing attempts this summer but deleted them right away. 

Neither student said that they had been targeted by vishing attempts.

The biggest challenge for Temple’s cybersecurity efforts comes from student turnover from year to year, Du said.

“Students learn a lot, but then they graduate and are replaced once more with high schoolers who don’t know much,” he added. “This will be a problem for a few more years.”

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