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Why recent malicious e-mails with attachments were so effective

Over the past month, K-State was hit by three different attacks using scam e-mails that contained malicious attachments. In the first round, which started July 13, more than 100 K-Staters were tricked into opening the attachments, resulting in at least 113 infected campus computers.

The compromised computers were turned into spam e-mail servers that sent thousands of the same malicious e-mails to people all over campus and the world. In fact, the malware used address books from local e-mail clients on the infected computers to harvest the e-mail addresses it used, which explains why so many people got so many copies at K-State.

Why was this attack so effective? The answer to this question — along with an explanation of what happened in the first attack, how the malware operated, and what can be done to prevent further outbreaks like this — was the subject of SIRT’s IT security roundtable Friday, Aug. 14. The PowerPoint slides from this presentation include samples of the malicious e-mails compared to legitimate ones from Amazon and Hallmark to help people recognize the difference.

K-Staters should also take the Phishing and Spam IQ Quiz described in another InfoTech Tuesday article to learn more about how to recognize malicious e-mails. Take the time to educate yourself since you, the user, continue to play a critical role in preventing outbreaks like these.

About Harvard Townsend (harv@ksu.edu)

Chief Information Security Officer