Earlier this month, AU inboxes belonging to students and faculty members were flooded with spam emails that had subject headings such as “Important” or “News”, designed to ensure they were opened by recipients. Contained in the body of the emails were a number of links to websites running malicious code. The episode outlined just how vulnerable large networks can be to the simplest of spam mail attacks and the importance of having a robust junk mail filter in place to minimise the damage caused by such attacks.

The University’s Office of Information Technology believed that one of the purposed behind the attack was to obtain Gmail passwords and advised all recipients who had clicked on one of the links contained in the emails to change their Gmail passwords as soon as possible. Whilst it may be difficult to understand why some people are still willing to click such links when they receive spam emails, we have to take into account the fact that these emails were disguised to look as though they had been sent by other students and faculty members at the university. Lulled into a false sense of security by the apparent origin of the emails, a number of recipients therefore assumed that it would be perfectly safe to clink the links that the emails contained.

Hackers have devised many ingenious ways to install malicious code on people’s PCs but the simple ideas are still sometimes the most effective. Simple attacks are often best repelled by simple defences, with mail filters being one of the best ways to ensure that your network is protected from attacks such as this one. If you do not have a filter, the need for vigilance when receiving mails from people with whom you do not communicate on a regular basis cannot be overstressed.