Email spoofs appear to be sent from faculty inbox, but aren’t

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Photo by Patrick Goodman

After the stop of the prank emails and the assurances of their harmlessness in a previous article by The University News, the University of Dallas community seems to have mostly forgotten the emails. 

However, despite the lack of new emails, there have been recent developments in this situation.

Nick Lopez, director of Campus Ministry, has confirmed that the “Stacy’s Mom” email on Jan. 31 which read “She’s Got It Going On” was in his “sent” folder. The replies he received from students went to his inbox.

Additionally, several faculty members have received emails supposedly from the late Dr. John Alvis requesting a meeting.

An email spoof is a forgery of the sending email address that looks like it is sent from someone’s account when it actually has not been. 

At first glance, it seems as if this development with Lopez’s email shows that this email was, in fact, a hack.

“While this might be initially concerning, apparently it is a ‘feature’ of Gmail services that if they detect the text address of an email is matched within the inbox to the owner’s, they include it in sent,” said Michael Booton, a junior computer science major, in an email. “For example, as long as the original owner is bcc’d or included in some manner, it would show up as sent.”

Because the prior emails were instances of spoofing, as previously confirmed by the Information Technology (IT) department, it is likely Lopez’s email was indeed a spoof.

“It’s worth noting that it’s a common enough practice when sending an email to an anonymous (bcc) list that a sender list[s] themselves as [a] recipient,” said Booton. “If the spoof-er did this, then it would result in being listed in the sender’s sent mail but not the inbox.”

Dr. Robert Hochberg, an associate professor of Computer Science, received an email supposedly signed by Alvis from the email address “udallasedujohnalvis@gmail.com” on Jan. 27. 

Therefore, unlike the other emails, this one does not appear to have been sent from a UD email but from a regular gmail seemingly made for this purpose. 

The text of the email read: “Are you in campus right now something happen to me here and I want you to help me out over there ASAP.”

“I was chatting with a student when I saw the email on my phone,” said Hochberg. “I think I said something like ‘how tasteless,’ and simply deleted it, after showing it to the student.”

Hochberg did not contact IT about this email, and IT could not be reached for comment on this story. In a February edition of The University News, Rick Hayter, director of the IT department, affirmed that the emails were spoofs. 

Though there is little that can be done by either IT or the student body about spoofs, Booton suggested reporting any future spoofs to Google as spam. 

“I get the impression that they are not easy to stop unless mail servers (such as Google) see many, many similar ones and can so identify them as spam,” said Hochberg.

In the meantime, the UD community will just have to hold onto their laptops and see if more spoofs are sent.

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