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Dear Members of the HLS Community,

Welcome to the HLS ITS Safe Computing newsletter. Our goal with these quarterly advisories is to raise awareness of security related issues and topics. Should you have any questions on the following, please call ITS at 617-495-0722 or email

Technology plays an ever-increasing role in our lives. As a result, scams that prey on this dependence are also increasingly common. There are three scams in particular that have been rampant recently, and that we all should be aware of.

Vishing (aka: Voice Phishing): A new series of fraudulent phone call scams known as “Vishing” or “Voice Phishing” scams, which purport to be from either “Harvard IT” or a vendor such as Microsoft, have been on the rise and are targeting the HLS community.  These callers attempt to gain access to computers by saying: “your computer has been reported as compromised,” or “your computer is generating a critical error notification,” and request credentials and/or credit card numbers so they can “connect to your computer,” and solve the problem. Please do not provide credentials or personal information to these callers. 

As a reminder: neither HLS ITS nor any other Harvard IT department will request your credentials or a credit card number during a service call.  HLS ITS will also only use TeamViewer, which is installed on all HLS computers, to provide remote support.  Additionally, Microsoft (or other software vendors) will not call you to initiate support calls.

CryptoLocker/Ransomware attacks: As highlighted in the news recently, a popular malware attack uses “CryptoLocker/Ransomware” malware, which infects a computer and prompts the user to pay a “ransom” to remove the infection. These attacks are most commonly spread via fake email messages with malicious attachments (often appearing to be invoices or documents).  Exercise caution with email: don’t open attachments, especially if they are unexpected or appear suspicious. If the message appears to be from a colleague or associate, considering calling or visiting their office to confirm that they actually sent the email.

To use the old cliché, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure;” and this is particularly apt when referring to “ransomware” such as CryptoLocker.  The only way to recover files affected by this type of malware is to restore them from a backup.  As tempting as it might be, attempting to pay to decrypt files will expose you to further problems (identity theft) and often does not recover the files at all. Click wisely, and forward any suspicious emails you receive to

The Fake Google Doc/OneDrive Doc: Another common form of phishing exploits the collaborative sharing environment of Google Docs. These emails attempt to compromise your Google Accounts by asking you to log into your Google Email to access a Google Doc. Before opening any Google Docs you receive via email, ensure that they are from a legitimate source. If you are not expecting this type of email, or if the message is from an unfamiliar address, do not click the link or enter credentials. If a shared Google Doc is legitimate, you will not have to click the link to open it. Instead, it will appear in your Google Drive in the “Shared with Me” section.

If you receive any suspicious phone calls or emails, or think you may have already experienced one, or are concerned about the validity of any call or email you’ve received, please contact the ITS Service desk.

Thank you,

The ITS Team