Security alerts, SPAM and threats

Cybersecurity is Everyone’s Responsibility

In the modern age of the internet and big data, we are constantly communicating with each other and sharing information online.

The interconnectedness of the internet means that sometimes the poor judgement of one person can affect the security of many others.

A security incident has the ability to severely impact your personal life, your studies, and even the university itself.

Our first line of defence is known as the “human firewall” – in which everyone takes responsibility for the security of their own devices in order to protect their wider digital community.

Tips On Staying Cyber-Secure

Email security

Phishing and Spear-Phishing emails

Phishing/Spear Phishing emails are the most common cause of users and companies being hacked.

“Phishing” is where a victim is tricked into downloading malware, ransomware or providing sensitive information to hackers. Hackers often perform phishing attacks via email, telephone or SMS messages.

A phishing email is a generic email sent to thousands of users at once in the hope that at least one target will fall victim. Think of someone casting a big net into the ocean to catch fish.

A “Spear phishing” email is specifically targeted at an individual and is often personalised to increase the chance of the target falling victim. Think of someone chasing a fish with a spear gun.

Examples of Phishing emails

Hackers almost always “spoof” their identity when sending phishing or spam emails to make it look like their email is coming from a trusted or legitimate party. Common examples include spoofing the email address of your friends and co-workers, Apple and PayPal.

Hackers also try and use threats and tactics to invoke a sense of fear, urgency or curiosity.

Examples are shown below:

Example 1

Phishing email example 1

In this example, the hacker is trying to invoke curiosity. The hacker is relying on the user being curious to see what this “unknown activity” is and opening the attached file. In this example, the file is a malicious Word document.

Example 2

Phishing email example 3

In this example, the hacker is trying to invoke fear and urgency. The hacker is relying on the user to believe that they will be subject to humiliation if they do not pay a ransom.

The hacker also shows the user they know one of their passwords in order to show they’re serious – this is a trick to get you to believe them and pay the ransom. The password they mention is often from a list of passwords that have already been leaked in a previous data breach.

Example 3

Phishing email example 2

In this example, the hacker is trying to invoke fear and urgency. The hacker is relying on the user to believe that they have done something wrong with their PayPal account, and that they need to clear their name by clicking on a malicious link.

When checking your emails, always stop and think

  • Do I know the sender?
  • Am I expecting an email like this from the sender?
  • Does my recent activity warrant an email like this?

Email “preview” mode

Most email clients allow you to “Preview” an attachment you might receive in an email. Don’t be fooled – this is exactly the same as if you were to save and open it. If the attachment has malicious code, it will still run.

Never open a file in “preview mode” unless you are expecting to receive it and can verify the sender’s identity.

Personal security

Connecting to public Wi-Fi

Accessing the internet on a public wi-fi network is dangerous, as anyone else on the network can easily view the data you’re sending or receiving.

Always connect to the La Trobe VPN when on a public wi-fi network by following the steps here:
https://www.latrobe.edu.au/students/support/it/connecting/vpn/Install-and-run-the-VPN

Passwords

Because you have dozens, if not hundreds of different accounts for services you use every day, chances are you’re re-using the same password because it’s easier to remember.

Make sure you’re using a strong passphrase that’s at least 15 characters long and has two or three words with a combination of numbers and symbols (e.g. keyboardheadphones25364). This will ensure your passphrase can’t be easily cracked.

Refer to these example passwords and the amount of time it takes for them to be cracked

  • “password” – cracked instantly
  • “Latrobe” – 200 milliseconds
  • “cricket555” – 1 day
  • “c(RiR#6h)n!” – 400 years
  • “computermonitor396” – 8,000,000,000 years

Another good practice is to use a password manager, such as LastPass, KeePass, Keeper or DashLane. These automatically generate and save secure passwords for any new accounts you create.

See how secure your password is here - https://howsecureismypassword.net/

See whether your password has already been compromised here - https://haveibeenpwned.com/Passwords

Always make sure you’re using strong passwords.

Your digital footprint

Always remember that any data posted on the internet is on there forever.

Hackers often rely on their victims to overshare information on social networks and forums, such as their email address, place of employment/study and job position. This information can not only make you a target for hackers, but it is also leveraged by hackers to conduct spear phishing attacks.

See the video below for a basic explanation:

Always be conscious of what you share on the internet and never overshare information with people that don’t need to know.

Software and device security

Device security

If you’re using your laptop, phone or a computer and need to step out (for example, to go to the toilet), always make sure to take it with you. If you’re unable to take it with you, lock your device. This will prevent your device being accessed by someone if it is stolen.

Some devices also allow you to set it so it will wipe itself after a number of unsuccessful access attempts.

Always keep your devices with you when possible. Otherwise, always lock them when they’re not in use.

Back up data

Always back up your data to an external hard drive or cloud storage service such as your LTU OneDrive account, iCloud or Google Drive in the event of your computer is lost or stolen.

Keep programs up-to-date

Over time, bugs and glitches affecting computer programs and mobile apps get disclosed – some of which can allow a hacker to completely take over your machine.

Fortunately, these vulnerabilities are often patched quickly, but the onus is on you to keep your programs up to date.

Always keep your Windows/MacOS/iOS/Android and any programs up to date. Always download new versions when prompted.

Running foreign/untrusted programs

Most of the time, a hacker wanting to infect you with a virus or ransomware will rely on you to run an executable file they send to you. These can be identified as having file extensions such as .exe or .msi.

Never run executables from sources you don’t trust. Always verify the file and where it came from.

Opening macro-enabled documents

Hackers have recently resorted to sending Microsoft Word or Excel documents that have what’s called “macros” embedded in them. Macros are often used to automate things such as calculations, however they can also be used by hackers to download and run viruses and ransomware.

Macro-enabled documents can be identified by having the “.docm”, “.xlsm” or “.pptm” file extension.

Never open a Microsoft Office document that has macros unless you are expecting to receive it and can verify the sender’s identity.

USB devices

Hackers’ attacks aren’t limited to the Internet. Infected USB storage devices are often used by hackers to spread viruses and ransomware. There are also USB devices that can steal your passwords or even overload and physically destroy any device it’s plugged into.

Never plug in a USB device that you randomly find or are given to from someone you don’t trust.

Additional resources

Staying secure online

Find out more about staying secure online with the following resources:

Staying informed

Keep up-to-date with new cyber threats and trends: