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It’s a trap! Why so many phishing attacks succeed.

Phishing is one of the most common cyberattacks against higher education institutions and their students, faculty, and staff — and one reason for recent UMail and Microsoft Office 365 security upgrades at the University of Utah. 

Phishing attacks can take many forms, but they all share a common goal — getting you to share sensitive information, such as login credentials, credit card information, or other restricted and/or sensitive data. Although the U maintains controls to help protect our networks and computers from cyberthreats, we rely on you to be our first line of defense.

Here’s how you can do your part and be cyber smart.

Master manipulators

Criminals use phishing attacks to try to trick you. They will impersonate people, departments, organizations, and even the university to obtain your uNID and password, or other restricted/sensitive information. Phishing emails are designed to provoke an urgent and emotional response. 

Look for subject lines like:

  • Update your Healthcare Information ASAP
  • Please Read Important from …
  • Urgent Request
  • COVID-19 Information. Family member has tested positive.
  • Account update
  • Mail Synching Error
  • Review important tax summary before end of day.
  • Office 365 Incoming mail on hold
  • Congratulations! You have won …
  • Fwd: confirmation of payment
  • Delivered item was stolen
  • Your mailbox storage is running out. Click here to increase the size

If the subject line doesn’t seem suspicious, but you aren’t familiar with the sender, you notice poor spelling and/or grammar, or unknown links, it still might be a phishing attempt. Keep your emotions in check and do not be manipulated. Think before you click.

You also might receive emails that appear to come from file-sharing sites like UBox, Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive alerting you that someone has shared a document with you. The links provided in these emails will take you to fake login pages that mimic real ones and will steal your account credentials. 

How to protect yourself

To avoid phishing schemes, please observe the following email best practices:

  • Be wary of emails that provoke an urgent and emotional response.
  • Do not click on links or attachments from senders you do not recognize. Be especially wary of .zip files, or other compressed or executable file types.
  • Do not provide sensitive personal information (e.g., usernames and passwords) over email, ever.
  • Watch for email senders who use suspicious or misleading domain names.
  • Inspect URLs carefully to ensure they’re legitimate and not imposter sites.
  • Do not open any shared document that you did not expect to receive.
  • Be especially cautious when opening attachments or clicking links if you receive an email containing a warning banner indicating that it originated from an external source.
  • Slow down and pay attention as you review your inbox. It takes only one phishing email to compromise your system and spread to others in the organization. Consider adding two-factor authentication (2FA) to your email accounts in order to verify any login attempts.

If you receive a phishing email …

When you receive a phishing attempt through a university email account, the Information Security Office (ISO) asks that you immediately report it. The ISO can then confirm the phishing attempt, remove the email, and block the sender from our system to protect other students, faculty, staff, patients, and community members.

  • Forward the email as an attachment to
    • If you are unsure how to forward a message as an attachment, use a search engine to find instructions for your email client or ask someone to assist you.
    • If using UMail via Outlook Web Access (OWA), compose a new message, then drag and drop the email you want to forward into the body of the new message to send it as an attachment. Access this vendor support website for more information.
  • If, by accident, you click on a questionable link and enter login credentials, immediately go to the Campus Information Services portal ( and change your password. In addition, contact ISO's Security Operations Center at to notify information security staff.

If you need additional assistance, please contact your cognizant central IT help desk:

  • Main Campus UIT Help Desk: 801-581-4000, option 1
  • University of Utah Health ITS Service Desk: 801-587-6000

Report a scam

To make a police report regarding a scam, call the University of Utah Police at 801-585-2677 and ask to speak with an officer. This request will create a call log, which will show the date, time, and nature of your complaint. After speaking with an officer, you will receive instructions on next steps.

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Last Updated: 9/9/21