Digital Security: Email, Phishing Attempts, Malicious Software, and Computer Viruses

Protect your digital information by recognizing attempts to compromise it. Urban can be a target, as can some of our high-profile researchers or projects. People often try to gain entry into our systems, and your work computer and accounts are a direct link to those systems.

Email, Spam, and Phishing Attempts

The number one way to compromise the network is through malicious emails that try to get you to click on a link or take an action that might reveal personal information, often referred to as “phishing.” We use Symantec spam filters and virus detection to keep malicious emails from getting through to your account. Still, no filter is perfect. If you receive a suspicious email - Stop, Look, Think.

  • Did you expect to receive an email from the sender?
  • Is it demanding you take an immediate action; else you will face dire consequences or win a prize?

Stop. Look at different parts of the email:

  • Does the From: address match the text you see if you hover over it?
  • Is the domain name exactly correct?
  • Does the link text match the URL you see if you hover them with your mouse?
  • Were you expecting an attachment?
  • Is the attachment executable, i.e. end in .exe, .bat, .ps or something unrecognizable?
  • Does the attachment request you enable macros, download more software or send you off on link?

IMPORTANT: If you've already clicked on a link, don't panic, just contact the Help Desk- helpdesk@urban.org or extension 5530.

If you believe that our spam filter has caught a legitimate message, you can check your quarantine - https://vulcan.urban.org:41443. If this happens too often you have the option of adding the sender’s email address "tom.user@agency.com" or their domain "agency.com" to your Good Senders list through the menu on the left. You can also let Symantec know that they are catching legitimate emails in their spam filter by forwarding the email as an attachment to gfeedback@feedback-1.brightmail.com.

If you feel that too much spam is still coming through, you can manage it in three ways:

  1. Use your junk email settings in Outlook to manage your personal mailbox. See https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Overview-of-the-Junk-Email-Filter-5ae3ea8e-cf41-4fa0-b02a-3b96e21de089
  2. Go to your quarantine https://vulcan.urban.org:41443 and add the user or domain to your Bad Senders list.
  3. Let IT know by forwarding the email to helpdesk@urban.org. We can block an address to keep them from sending email to anyone at Urban.
  4. Let Symantec know by forwarding the email as an attachment to gsubmit@submit-1.brightmail.com. They might add the address to their list of blocked senders.

To forward a message as an attachment, open the message, click "More," and then click "Forward as attachment."

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Malicious Software

Another way you might contract a computer virus is by downloading malicious software or plugins. Do not install software on your PC or a server without having it checked out for malware. If you need a piece of software, downloading from major sites or the software manufacturer is better than attempting to download or torrent a free or trial copy of unknown provenance. Refrain from streaming free movie and music to a work machine for the same reasons.

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What to do if you suspect you have a Computer Virus

Signs that you might have a virus:

  • Slowdowns - your machine’s responses become sluggish, your Internet connection is slow for long periods of time
  • Suspicious hard drive activity - your hard drive is always running
  • Unusual pop-up or error messages
  • New browser homepage or toolbars
  • System crashes and may take a long time to reboot

If you suspect you have a virus, contact the Help Desk- helpdesk@urban.org or extension 5530.

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