Refreshing Your Account Security

UF Information Technology (UFIT) recommends evaluating the security of all of your online accounts. Strengthening your passwords for important accounts such as personal email, online banking access, and social media can protect you from some of the most damaging hacks. 

It is extremely important to use a different password on each site, so hackers can’t use passwords stolen from one account to break into your other accounts. One strategy recommended by security professionals is to use a “passphrase” made up of four or more random, unrelated words. Surprisingly, this is a stronger password than one made up of random letters and characters and is much easier to remember!  UF requires strong passwords for GatorLink account credentials. A common misconception about your GatorLink credentials is that you can’t use words found in a standard American dictionary as your password. But if your password is longer than 18 characters, then words are allowed. So, the next time you update your UF credentials, consider using a passphrase.

UFIT also recommends setting up multi-factor authentication (MFA) on your non-UF critical accounts. MFA solutions for external applications work like how Duo Mobile works at UF: your mobile device generates a one-time access code that you enter to access the account. By configuring MFA on your accounts and using the ‘Authenticator App’ option when doing so, you add an extra layer of security even if hackers compromise your password. All mobile devices can store MFA codes in the same Duo Mobile app you already use for UF. Alternatively, Apple devices can store those MFA codes in iCloud Keychain, where they will sync and autofill across your personal devices (including Windows via the iCloud application).

Beyond MFA, some companies now offer support for passkeys. A passkey uses an on-device verification mechanism, such as Face ID or a screen lock passcode, to verify your identity and allow access to an online account. Passkeys by design are more secure than passwords and provide protection against phishing, because they don’t require you to remember anything! Check out this demo to discover how passkeys work and visit the Passkey Directory for a list of websites that support passkeys today. 

Taking steps to secure your accounts is an investment in protecting your identity, money, and online image and reputation. For more information on creating secure passwords: 

Falling for a Phish Can Lead to an MFA Bombing Attack

Phishing attacks are frequently carried out through emails or texts that appear to come from a reputable source. Cybercriminals are skilled at using deceitful tactics to trick users into revealing personal information such as logins or credit card information. Common phishing tactics include:

Unsolicited work opportunities that lead to requests for bank routing information, or ask the new “employee” to purchase supplies, with the promise of reimbursement
Messages warning of an imminent deactivation of your accounts, such as bank accounts, social media accounts, or subscription services
Emails allegedly from the IRS, FBI, or other federal agency threatening legal action, and directing you to imposter websites requiring you to enter personally identifying information
Urgent requests from fake email accounts impersonating a high-level person in your organization, asking you to purchase gift cards or submit your credit card information.

Pay close attention to any email asking for GatorLink login credentials. Unauthorized access to your GatorLink account can expose your personal or academic information. Once a GatorLink login is compromised, the attacker may repeatedly spam Duo Push requests to your device — otherwise known as “MFA Bombing” — hoping you will accept just to make the requests stop. Approving an unexpected Duo request gives the criminal access to your account. Visit the MFA bombing webpage to learn more about this form of cyberattack.

Cybercrime Spikes at Start of Semester

Phishing emails, with malware and dangerous links embedded in them, increase at the start of each semester. Why? Cybercriminals know that new faculty, students, and staff do not yet understand what to expect from UF emails, and whether asking for GatorLink password information in an email is standard conduct. (It isn’t.)

In addition to phishing, social engineering includes deceitful activities like spear phishing, smishing, tailgating, and doxxing. Make time to review the Information Security Office’s
social engineering webpage and become familiar with techniques that cybercriminals use. To help the UF community better understand phishing, Dr. Amanda Phalin, Faculty Senate chair and senior lecturer in Warrington’s Management Department, recorded this video, which explains what it is and how it works.

In the past 12 months, UFIT’s security detection systems have caught 98.5% of phishing messages sent from outside the university. Still, some phishing emails do get through. That’s why being vigilant about what you click on is so important. The phish alert report button in GatorMail lets you report suspicious messages. If you receive an email you suspect is a phish, highlight the email and click on the phish alert report button. This action sends the potentially malicious email directly to the Information Security Office so staff can investigate. Emails from outside UF are marked with the [External Email] banner. Apply extra caution when you see this banner, especially if they purport to be from someone at UF.

Have a great semester and GO GATORS!

Social Engineering Pages Added to Website

UFIT recently added new pages to that educate about social engineering scams. The university community is a huge target for social engineering attacks–attacks that include phishing and smishing. By reviewing the social engineering webpages, Gators can learn the difference between everyday communications and an actual social engineering attack.

Received a text recently saying your UF email account will be suspended if you don’t certify your account via the link provided? Smish! UFIT has tracked significant growth in social engineering attempts like this in the past year. Social engineering attempts range from fake bank texts and “extended warranty” phone calls to emails pretending to be from UF professors offering $350 per week jobs. Having a large community on one network is extremely attractive for cyber-scammers. So, helping all Gators better understand which communications are legitimate and which are fraudulent keeps all us safer from attacks.

It only takes one click on a malicious link to cause a world of hurt. Learn to recognize social engineering tactics and help secure UF! If you are unsure whether an email or text purporting to be from UF is legitimate, you can always ask the UFIT Help Desk for assistance.