Spam email investigation by Shepherd IT continues

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Shpherd IT's automated system sorts through 10 million emails checking for spam, but cannot stop all spam from passing into students' inboxes (photo provided by The Picket Staff).

With spam emails filling student email accounts, University IT is working on ending the clutter but doesn’t promise any quick fixes.  

“Every school in the nation is dealing with this,” said Joseph Dagg, director of University IT services. “This is an epidemic within higher education worldwide.”  

Even though systems are in place to reduce the spam, Dagg said, the most important tool in the fight is education.  

“On average, IT Services endures 10 million emails a month, of which only 4 percent are legitimate. However, despite all of that, all it takes is for one to sneak through and then replicate,” he said.  

Many of the spam messages offer jobs from Shepherdstown businesses such as Four Seasons Books. Four Seasons Books’ staff has confirmed that the store does not look for student employment because it is a family-run business 

Dagg said that emails used by spammers tend to spoof accounts or masks meant to look like a Shepherd email. The most common tactic is to misspell the email. Spammers will use Gmail accounts to mimic university emails. Another tactic spammer will use is they will send a student emails asking them to click on a link which, if clicked, will validate the user email, which will then be harvested and redistributed by spammers.  

“If a user reports a bad email,” Daggs said, “we typically trace down the root, report those to the internet provider service, and email providers to disable the accounts. We also block access to those links if they are provided.”  

Columbia University performed a study in 2017 that estimated that 88 percent of spam emails sent to students at universities nationwide go unreported to IT Services. Shepherd’s IT Services says that the best way to lessen the influx of spam emails is through students educating themselves and reporting spam emails that come into their inbox.  

If any student at Shepherd University needs to report spam emails that they have received, contact the IT Services Desk either by email at itworkorder@shepherd.edu or by visiting them in person in the academic support center at Scarborough Library.