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UW Takes Steps to Protect Email, Other Systems

October 8, 2018

The University of Wyoming is taking steps to reduce the number of malicious emails that reach UW employees.

Through Information Technology, UW is implementing a three-part security initiative to protect UW’s financial data, research data, systems and employees’ personal information.

“Phishing and UW email accounts that may be compromised by hackers are serious cybersecurity threats to the university and to individuals,” says Brett Williams, interim director of applications and database services with UW Information Technology. “We block millions of threats a day, but hackers are becoming more sophisticated, more targeted in their attacks and more skilled in using deception and impersonation.”

Williams notes that on average, more than 30 employee email accounts are compromised each month due to phishing or other attacks. Phishing attacks typically are launched from external emails appearing to be internal emails.

UW’s first new cybersecurity measure, which already has taken effect, is the tagging of messages coming into the UW email system from external accounts. The tagging consists of a cautionary message at the top of the external email that reads: “This message was sent from a non-UWYO address. Please exercise caution when clicking links or opening attachments from external sources.”

“This tag does not mean the email is unsafe, malicious or fraudulent,” Williams says. “The tag is only a reminder that you should take care before opening attachments or clicking on links in the email. This is especially true if the emails are tagged but appear to come from someone at the university.”

A second step, which takes effect Tuesday, Oct. 16, is a requirement for two-factor authentication when logging into UW systems and applications outside the UW network -- typically when employees are off campus, such as when they’re home or traveling. Starting Oct. 16, all faculty and staff members will have to use two-factor authentication for a much broader array of applications, from Outlook web access to WyoCourses to WyoCloud.

“Seventy-six percent of UW faculty and staff members already are enrolled in two-factor authentication, so this is not an unreasonable hardship,” Williams says. “Plus, using two-factor authentication is easy.”

The simplest way to use UW’s two-factor authentication system is to install the UW Duo application on your smartphone. More information is available by visiting the UWIT Service Center. To self-register and enroll, click here.

A third measure is mandatory cybersecurity training for all UW employees. The training, which will be made available in the next couple of weeks via the new UW Learn system, will help employees protect the university and themselves.

“These three parts -- email tagging, two-factor authentication and cybersecurity training -- will significantly reduce UW’s security risks as well as protect employees,” Williams says.

For more information on spotting and reporting phishing attempts, go here. Those with questions should call the UWIT Help Desk at 766-4357, option 1, or email userhelp@uwyo.edu.

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