Awareness : Newsletter Articles

Alert: Scary Pop-up Messages on your PC. Call UM Information Technology Immediately!

Imagine you are browsing the internet when all of a sudden a window or multiple windows pop-up with alarming messages such as “Your machine has been compromised” or “Your machine is engaged in illegal activity”. These multiple windows are an attempt by cyber criminals to induce panic and scare you into acting in a hasty and less reasoned manner.

One of the pop-up windows may “helpfully” display a number to call for “immediate assistance”. This is the first definitive sign that all is not as it appears. If you happen to call this number, the person may ask for your username and password to “remotely assist” in order to resolve your issue. Once connected, they may also ask for your credit card number for their services. This is your second signal to immediately hang up and call UM Information Technology (UM IT). NEVER call any phone number that randomly appears on a pop-up window or in a completely unsolicited fashion. UM IT will never contact you via a pop-up window asking you to dial a toll free number. Please contact UM IT for immediate assistance with any issues related to your University devices. Do not fall for the scare tactics of these cyber-criminals.

The best way to protect yourself from this type of cyber-attack is to understand the cause. These types of attacks usually require you to explicitly click on a link, in any email for example, or open a malicious attachment. While these continue to be the most frequent means to “infect” devices, be aware that the sophistication of these attacks has evolved so that simply visiting certain web sites may be sufficient to infect your machine. UM IT is actively engaged in fine-tuning our defenses to detect these continuously evolving attacks. However, your awareness and participation in defeating these threats is the first step in defending the University of Miami and yourself.

Here are essential steps to protect yourself and the University of Miami:

  • Be wary of clicking on links on a web page in an email or in a chat window unless you absolutely trust the page or sender. Most modern browsers allow you to hover, i.e. move your mouse pointer over the link, without actually clicking. You should see a web address that matches the name of the link – for example, if you are on http://www.miami.edu, hovering over any links on that page should indicate addresses that end in “miami.edu”.
  • If you don’t know the sender personally and/or you are not sure what the link leads to – DON’T CLICK IT!
  • All University PCs must have an antivirus solution installed. UM IT deploys McAfee VirusScan on University PCs. Your antivirus solution needs to be updated frequently to detect new threats – daily is recommended. PCs located on UM premises will be updated automatically. For others, and for laptops not frequently connected to University networks, please ensure that your antivirus is updated frequently. Contact UM IT for assistance with McAfee.
  • Pay attention to prompts from UM IT, advising that software updates are required and install them as soon as possible. If you are unsure of the origins of the updates, please contact UM IT. Note that Java, Adobe Flash, Reader and Acrobat require frequent updates. This is also especially important for your home devices.
  • You should have backups of all essential files. Avoid storing essential files only on your local hard drive. Utilize University supplied cloud resources such as Box. Note information should only be shared with, or accessible by other authorized individuals.
  • If you do happen to have done something that results in multiple windows opening, other “scareware” tactics, or other suspicious activity on your device, do not panic! Call UM IT at 305-243-5999 immediately.

Thank you for playing your part in protecting UHealth’s information.