Monday, February 6, 2023

As more students use school laptops, WJCC is working to fight against scammers

(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)
(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)

While hundreds of students are using laptops distributed by their school district during the coronavirus pandemic, there are now concerns over email scams.

In Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools, Brian Landers, senior director for technology, said there has been only one email scam that infiltrated the school system since the laptops have been distributed.

It was from a “spoofed” student email account that was sending spam to other accounts. Landers said spoofed accounts can work in a couple of ways, one of which is someone creating a fake email address or a real email address being hacked. In the most recent instance, he wasn’t sure which type of spoofing had taken place.

The district’s technology department was able to lock down one of the individual emails and remove the rest of the emails from the district’s system fairly quickly.

“It can vary, time-wise, on how long it takes to isolate and lock it down,” he said. “But it’s usually not that long. If we get tipped off, we can immediately shut down the impacted email account and clean up the spam.”

Eileen Cox, spokeswoman for the district, said WJCC has a number of layers of protection in place, such as firewall, anti-virus software and anti-spam programs. 

“However, none of them is 100% fool-proof,” she wrote in an email. “Unfortunately, hackers are constantly developing new ways to infiltrate personal and business accounts for malicious purposes.”

But she said it’s important students and parents learn how to recognize the signs of a spam email and the division routinely works to build awareness among students and staff through classroom lessons and direct communication.

Landers said some warning signs of spam email are if an email is sent from outside the WJCC network or asks the recipient to connect with someone outside the network. 

For example, one parent posted in the WJCC Public School Parents and Community Facebook page that his daughter received an email asking for someone to pet-sit puppies and earn $300 a week. The email then asked the student to contact someone outside of the WJCC network and provide their name and phone number for further communication.

Scam emails will also ask the recipient to open a document that can leak malware onto a device. Landers said typically only a student’s teacher will send emails with documents attached.

Users should also watch out for odd grammar, misspelled words or if the email is asking for something unusual such as a phone number or an address.

If a parent or student suspects they’ve received a spam email, they should report it to the division’s internal help desk at 757-259-7192.

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Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doironhttp://wydaily.com
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at alexa@localvoicemedia.com.

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