Spam, Phishing, and Junk Email 

Detecting whether email is spam, phishing, or junk is a challenge not only for us in the College of the Environment, but all of the UW.  While UWIT does a good job of filtering out most of these unwanted emails, some will eventually get past the existing security filters and find your INBOX. 

 If you receive a message that you think is potentially malicious, such as a message from our dean asking you to buy her a gift card, or a bank or even the UW asking you to login and change your password, follow these steps: 

  • DO NOT click on any links in the message, respond to the message, or forward the message to others other than what is described below. 
  • Determine whether the message as spam or phishing: 
    • Spamis unsolicited email, typically sent to a widespread audience, contains malicious links or that appears to come from someone you might typically respond to (Dean, Chair, Director, etc) who is trying to get you to buy something for them.   
    • A  phishing email is a type of spam in which the sender tries to get you take a specific action, such as clicking on a link, entering your UW NetID credentials, or downloading an attachment. 
  • If you receive an email you suspect is phishing, in which someone is trying to get you to download an attachment or enter your UW NetID and password onto a fake web page, forward the email as an attachment to 
  • If you receive an email you suspect is spam, in which someone tries to sell you a product or get you to purchase a product for them (such as a gift card), forward the email as an attachment to 
  • Once you have reported the phishing or spam email, delete the email and consider the steps below to further reduce your risks. 

Filter out spam

Unwanted email messages (spam) fill up your Inbox and often contain links to malicious sites that will try to attack your computer. Use the spam filter of your email service to minimize exposure to this hazard. 

  • Spam filtering for UW Exchange Online and UW Gmail 

Be skeptical 

 Computer viruses and worms are programs that makes copies of themselves and infect computer files. Most viruses and some worms need your help before they can infect your computer. You can avoid helping them by doing the following: 

  • Do not open unexpected email attachments. Even attachments in messages from people you know may be infected because viruses often have fake “From:” addresses. 
  • Do not download unknown programs, such as free screensavers. 
  • Do not trade lots of unknown files, such as with peer-to-peer programs like Kazaa. The more unknown files you download, the more likely that some of them contain viruses or worms. 
  • Do not believe amazing offers and unlikely stories.  Our Dean is NEVER going to ask you to buy her a gift card. 

Keep your computer clean 

It is UW and the College of the Environment policy that all computers connecting the UW networks should be well managed to minimize the chance that they will get infected. This policy applies no matter what computer you are using (office, portable, or home) and no matter how you connect (by wireless in a lecture hall, from your personal ISP account at home, or by plugging in to a wall connection on campus). 

  • Use the Eduroam Wi-Fi network when connecting from home.  Eduroam is the free, secure, encrypted and preferred Wi-Fi connection method.
  • Use a secure VPN such as Husky OnNet to connect to the UW network from remote locations.

If you do get infected, it is a very serious problem: 

  • An infected computer is a hazard to the UW networks, The College of the Environment and other UW computers. 
  • You have a responsibility to promptly clean your computer. 
  • Your connection to UW networks will be blocked if your computer is the source of virus and worm attacks on other computers. To be able to get to the Internet again, you will have to clean your computer (probably rebuild it) and then have your connection unblocked. 

Use antivirus software 

 To further protect yourself and others from viruses, The College of the Environment and UW Information Technology strongly recommends that all computers accessing UW networks and services run antivirus software. Find the Sophos antivirus program on Securing Your Computer. Be sure to regularly download and install the updated data files. New viruses are appearing constantly, and your antivirus program needs the latest data to be effective. 

Automatically update your OS and antivirus software 

 Viruses and worms try to take advantage of known weaknesses in operating systems. In many cases, patches to these weaknesses are available. The safest approach is to configure your operating system to automatically install patches as they become available. 

The antivirus software you use must also have current data to be able to detect the latest attacks. It is strongly recommended that you follow the instructions that come with your antivirus program to configure it to automatically update so you always have the latest data. 

Sophos antivirus software for Windows and Macintosh computers is available for download to all UW faculty, postdocs, staff, and students at no direct cost. 

Need technical assistance?  Please fill out the eSITS Help Request form.

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