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Cybersecurity: how to spot a phishing mail

29 March 2022

Teaching and research institutions are often targeted by hackers. You may have seen this in the news over the past few weeks. Hackers come up with all sorts of different ways to get into a system. One of the most common of these is phishing. This means sending fake mails that look reliable but are actually trying to steal data or install malware.

Below is a phishing mail that staff from Leiden University have received. It looks real because the sender has used the university logo. But there are six ways to see that this mail is fake.

Example phishing mail

Recognize a phishing mail

The sender’s e-mail address is incorrect. Leiden University addresses don’t end on ‘ulcn.nl’ but on ‘leidenuniv.nl’.

The greeting is not personal. This does not necessarily mean that the sender is unreliable, but it is reason to be alert.

The mail asks the recipient to enter their password. ULCN will never ask for your password.

A phishing mail is only dangerous if you click on a link, open an attachment or answer the mail. This mail contains a dangerous link. If you hover your mouse over a link without clicking on it, you will see which website it really takes you to.

Phishing mails often contain urgent calls to action or threaten consequences, so that the recipient will feel rushed and forget to check the mail properly.

Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly professional, so you will also find error-free phishing mails in your inbox. But they have made a mistake in the example above: the ‘SSC’ doesn’t exist. The Leiden University helpdesk is part of the ISSC.

Heb je mogelijk een phishingmail ontvangen?

If you think you might have received a phishing mail, phone the colleague who sent it to you or notify the ISSC helpdesk. For more information see the webpage on phishing of follow an e-learning module of Awaretrain.

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