Haas Undergoes Yet Another Phishing Attempt

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Students in the Haas School of Business received an e-mail from the school's computing services help desk Friday afternoon warning of "Possible hacking into Haas NT account and e-mail," and while officials described the warning as a routine occurrence, it is indicative of a greater problem facing students and campus officials alike.

The warning e-mail was sent in response to reports of earlier e-mails sent to students soliciting their personal information, a practice also known as "phishing." Attempts from unidentified individuals - masquerading in this instance as "Vice-Chancellor" - to acquire students' sensitive information are both widespread and regular, said Ann Geyer, campus chief privacy and security officer.

"Day two when I was here at campus, I got a phishing attack," Geyer said.

According to Help Desk Manager Darrell Alder, phishing scams occur at Haas every two to three months. He said once he became aware of the scam, he immediately sent out the follow-up e-mail warning students of the situation.

"Every once in a while, someone will get cocky and try to hack into the system by duping people into believing this is a legitimate e-mail," Alder said. "Some people are tricked, but we do everything to make sure students are aware that the e-mail is bogus."

Geyer said phishing attacks are especially common at the beginning of the academic year and target not only students' information but also other sensitive resources. She said attackers often place links in phishing e-mails that download malicious code onto unsuspecting users' computers, creating back doors through which hackers can penetrate campus defenses and access sensitive information.

Hackers have breached UC Berkeley defenses on a number of occasions, including an April 2009 breach of the University Health Services system, which resulted in 97,000 compromised Social Security numbers and other personal information. A breach at the campus Graduate School of Journalism in July 2009 endangered close to 500 individuals' personal information.

In response, the campus ramped up minimum electronic security standards in January, and security officials are conducting reviews of different campus departments to identify potential vulnerabilities.

Geyer said efforts to prevent phishing attacks center around installing proper security software and learning to "recognize what looks suspicious." She added that any suspicious activity could be reported on the campus security website for security officials to investigate.

Katie Nelson of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.


Mihir Zaveri is the university news editor. Contact him at [email protected]

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