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Duke ‘security’ alert: Some guy is asking professors for their reading lists

In an election season where Russia allegedly turned American democracy against itself through internet scams, what cyber threat is Duke University worried about?

Some guy asking professors for their course reading lists.

Its IT security office sent a “scam” alert to faculty yesterday, warning them that an internet user identifying himself as law student “Gary Joe” had emailed “a number of Duke professors.”

The email is the same for everyone except for the name of the course for which Gary Joe wants reading lists, the alert says:

This is not the first time this sender has attempted to obtain class information from Duke professors and these attempts will likely continue. While there is no malicious payload or URL in the message, the sender’s attempt to misrepresent himself leads the IT Security Office to recommend that recipients of this message not reply and instead delete the message without comment.

In other words, it’s not a particularly clever “scam,” and it’s not asking for anything sensitive or private. Indeed, it’s common for professors to post their reading lists for any internet user to see. Here’s the email the security office posted.

gary-joe-scam-duke

Certainly this must qualify as a pernicious attack on academic freedom!

The IT security office doesn’t appear to be dealing with particularly bright scammers beyond Gary Joe.

Over the course of two weeks in December, it sent three warnings about phishing attacks that led to websites that were clearly not operated by Duke, if anyone bothered to look at the web address.

Read the alert.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” Previously he led media and public relations at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, a free-market think tank. Greg is developing a Web series about a college newspaper, COPY, whose pilot episode was a semifinalist in the TV category for the Scriptapalooza competition in 2012. He graduated in 2001 with a B.A. from Seattle Pacific University, where he co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon.

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