GW sees spike in cybercrime cases

Cybercrime is escalating at GW, mirroring the findings of a recent report released by a top information technology company.

GW has seen growth in both the number and type of computer security incidents at the University, paralleling computer security company McAfee’s report that cybercrime has been increasing by double digits every year.

The top scams listed in the McAfee report released 2 weeks ago are also the most prevalent at GW, Rachel Blevins, the spokeswoman for the Division of Information Technology, said.

They include fake antivirus alerts, malicious websites and phishing, or trying to trick users into giving out personal information. Cybercrime is defined as crime performed by means of the Internet or computers, typically in the form of identity theft.

The University has sent out three Infomail e-mails warning students of phishing scams since November.

Blevins said at this point, phishing has become so prevalent the Division of Information Technology has seen a drop in students reporting phishing attempts.

Three to 15 percent of users who receive phishing e-mails click on them, Blevins said, adding that it is impossible to accurately track how many cybercrime attacks GW has seen because they so frequently go unreported.

“One very popular scam over the last year was a forged e-mail or Facebook chat from a friend supposedly mugged at gunpoint in London,” Blevins said. “The attacker masquerading as a friend in trouble asks for money to be sent via Western Union.”

Twitter has not yet proven to be a key cybercrime tool, she added. Music, video and movie-sharing websites are hotbeds for viruses, according to the McAfee report.

Modern advances allow cybercriminals to extend their reach and hide their own identities, putting users at greater risk, according to the report.

Blevins said students should contact law enforcement if their personal information might have been compromised online.

“In the most serious cases, one wrong click can result in identity theft, so it is extremely important that students are suspicious of anything unusual when using e-mail and the Web,” Blevins said.

Students can protect their computers with free browser add-ons that use global website ratings to help identify malicious links, Blevins said.

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