Iowa State University

ITInformation Technology

Stay Cyber Safe

This news item expired October 9, 2013. It may contain out-of-date information.

Online crime is one of the fastest growing areas of theft. What's being stolen? Anything from your name to your money. Some victims give it up willingly, without knowing they've been taken. Until it's too late.

"The biggest danger is any loss of personal information," said Andy Weisskopf, senior systems analyst with Information Technology Services (ITS) at ISU. "It's very easy, with very little effort, for someone else to get enough information about you to obtain a credit card in your name such as your social security number and date of birth. Never give this information to anyone," he said.

The Iowa Attorney General's Office warned recently of a scam that Weisskopf has seen on campus. Someone claiming to be a representative of Microsoft has been making calls, telling people their computer has a virus. Some of these scams involve convincing the victim to download malicious software. Others are even more costly. "They will tell you to go to your event log, which always looks like a lot of scary stuff is going on," Weisskopf said. And then they'll trick you into letting them fix it for you, for a fee, say $20. In one instance the caller, who was screen-sharing with the victim, convinced the victim to open his Paypal account while sharing the screen. The caller then quickly added several zeros to the $20 fee he had discussed with the victim and clicked "send." Then disappeared. With $200 of the victim's money.

Be suspicious if:

  • someone asks you (by phone or by email) to log in to your computer
  • you are asked to click on a link or open an attachment, especially if you don't know the sender

"ITS at Iowa State will never ask you to log in to share a screen," Weisskopf said. "We'll never ask students if we can remotely control their computer."

While monetary theft is relatively rare, phishing attempts happen frequently. Phishing is when an outsider attempts to steal your identity by invading your computer or asking you to do something, such as clicking a link or opening attachment. Often this action will release a virus or a worm which can cause damage to your computer as well as the university's system.

For more information, check out how to Stay Cyber Safe.