Information Security Education: Phishing

You may have been redirected to this page after clicking on a link in an email. You’ve been Phished!!

MU Health is committed to ensuring the safety and security of its employees and information systems. This page provides valuable education on phishing attack prevention. The information below will help you recognize phishing attacks and respond to them appropriately.

What is phishing?

Phishing is a social engineering attack often used to steal user data, including login credentials, or gain access to computer networks. In phishing attacks, cybercriminals craft emails to resemble correspondence from a trustworthy source, such as your employer, your supervisor, a legal representative, human resources, your boss, etc.  Phishing emails may contain a message offering a free service or promising cash rewards, often urging the user to take prompt action. Readers may be instructed to click on a link within the email or open an attachment.

When the user clicks a link or opens an attachment in a phishing email, viruses or other malware may be installed on the computer in the background. Scammers may also embed malicious links in emails and lure users to provide sensitive information such as passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers. Users should make sure they understand the risk when opening email attachments or clicking links from unfamiliar sources, as these can be used to infect computers with malware.

Types of phishing

  • Spear phishing: In spear phishing, scammers target an individual within an organization with a carefully crafted email. A spear phishing email may mention the target by name and mention other personal details.
  • Whaling: Whaling occurs when a senior official in the organization is targeted with a phishing email. This type of phishing is similar to spear phishing, but in whaling the target is a high-ranking official.
  • Vishing: Vishing is commonly known as voice phishing. Vishing involves a phishing attack over the phone.

Watch this short video to learn more about phishing.

How to recognize phishing

  • Source of the email. Examine the “From:” field. The sender of the email can be identified by looking at what comes after the “@” in the in the sender’s address. For example, if an email has sender as missouri.edu@realemail.com, the email was really sent from “realemail.com” and not from missouri.edu
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Phishing illustration
  • Links with email. If there are any links within the email, hover over the like with your mouse (without clicking the link) to see the web address to which the link will direct users. Do not click any links within a suspicious email.
  • Attachments. Do not open any attachments you are not expecting. Opening a harmless-looking attachment may launch malicious code in the background.
    Note: Periodically, MU Health sends out emails reminding users to change their passwords. However, these legitimate password change emails will come from "donotreply@umsystem.edu" and will not contain any attachments or links. 
  • Content of the email. Phishing emails may contain a message that is out of place or out of character. The message may have spelling errors or poor grammar. However, scammers are beginning to craft more sophisticated messages, free of grammatical errors. Often, the reader is urged to click a link, open an attachment, or perform some other action in an urgent manner. Scammers may also impersonate someone in authority such as your manager or boss, and try to trick users into taking certain actions.

What to do if you suspect a phishing attack

If you suspect that an email is a phishing email, please report it to abuse@missouri.edu. Start a new email and include the suspicious email as an attachment.

What to do if you responded to a phishing email

If you responded to a phishing email, please report the incident to abuse@missouri.edu. Be sure to send the original email as an attachment in your report. Also, consider changing your password if you responded to a phishing email.