Digital Attacks and Phishing

The number of digital attacks has increased significantly in the last two months and the UFS is not excluded from this. During our first attack, many of our staff members clicked on the link provided in the phishing email and also provided their login credentials and password. At that point, the ‘hacker’ had free access to the university as he/she then adopted your digital identity and ‘operated’ as if it is you that sent out the phishing emails. Due to the fact that each staff member is a trusted partner of the UFS, our identity management systems will not block you from any of the allocated UFS digital resources, even though your digital identity now belongs to a hacker somewhere in the world. 

At this point, there is really nothing that ICT can do to track the hacker in our systems, except if he/she now becomes very active and attempts to hack into the core systems. In many instances, this is already too late for us (ICT) to attempt to curb the damage and all we can really do is to block the ‘trusted user’ in a manner that the user is no longer part of our digital landscape.

Furthermore, the hacking attempt now comes from inside our environment and all other users will most likely be ‘fooled’ (said with a lot of respect) by either claiming that they know the person well and trust emails coming from them. At that point they also become part of the hack network.

Lastly, and this is where it becomes a bit more serious. Once hacked, the hacker now uses your digital identity to generate literally millions of emails and sends them under your credentials to whoever is willing to accept them. The UFS now becomes exposed internationally as a phishing source and we become blacklisted and all our access to the outside world is terminated. Once we are cut off, we are subjected to international monitoring and digital audits until we resolve the phishing issue. Only at that point will we be allowed back into the global playpen. We are very close to this point and we were already warned that we are being monitored. Not a nice place to be.

Given the last attack, it is estimated that 95% of our staff members ignored the hack email and are effectively safe, BUT, the 5% that did respond to it are now part of our (ICT) concern. So, what now?

  1. Sit down, take a few deep breaths, relax, calm down and, when ready, do the following steps.

  2. Change your password NOW, even if you are sure that you are part of the 95% group.

  3. In future, carefully consider the return URL (Internet address) provided to click on. If it looks funny and the ‘word’ ‘UFS’ is not somewhere contained in it – ignore it, and delete it immediately.

  4. If the message is not from me personally (as this email is), also ignore it. ICT will not communicate with you directly in the manner the hacker does by providing phony return email addresses. Notifications will be clearly identified as ICT.

  5. Report it immediately as you normally do to the ICT Service Desk (at x2000) and we will take it from there.

  6. If you, in any manner suspect that you were ‘infiltrated’ or ‘hi-jacked’, register a service call and we will investigate the matter and assist you in any way we can.

  7. Be very careful to click on links provided in the social media pages, especially those that, in a fun way, first ask your month of birth, then a few more questions on your breakfast preference, etc. At some point they know enough about you to very clearly identify you and start ‘pushing stuff’ to you. At some point, your identity will becomes theirs – this is where the fun-and-games begin. Next moment you become a global celebrity, but for the wrong reasons.

  8. I never thought I would say this to anyone. When in the digital world, count your fingers BEFORE and AFTER you greet and converse digitally with anyone, any group, any platform.


Oracle Certificate



Illegal Software

For the past three years, ICT performed a ‘digital signature’ audit on all computers of the UFS in March and October and reported the findings internal to Department Heads of both Faculties and Service Departments alike. This was to (i) create awareness on the seriousness of this illegal practice, (ii) to create a reporting base from where benchmarks could be performed, and (iii) to assist staff in the removal thereof without the risk of formal prosecution. This has now changed.

BSA, the international authorities on software piracy has now launched a campaign where corporate users can now blow the whistle on colleagues and co-workers if they suspect that illegal software is being installed and/or used. This changes the game significantly. Where-as ICT, through its structured approach could assist users to clean-up their environments, ICT is no longer the safe go-between and cannot defend these actions through proof of audits, etc. The University is now fully exposed legally and also in terms of its reputation.

Remember. If you cannot produce the legal license certificate of the software you are using, the onus falls on the University to provide the evidence of purchase, making the UFS the legal ‘accountable’ party. ICT will shortly provide a list of ‘legal corporate software’ on its web-site for your perusal and verification. If the name of the software does not appear in the list – we are NOT licensed for it.

Next steps:

  1. The digital signature audit will commence in the first week of March 2018.
  2. A record of all illegal software, games, freeware, shareware, etc. will be made available per Department and Faculty for remediation.
  3. ICT will, and is now compelled to, report the findings to the BSA. We can no longer claim that we did not know of these potential infringements, especially if co-workers report on each other. Remember there is a cash reward linked to it which makes it very attractive to do so.
  4. A full report will serve before Rectorate by the end of March 2018.
  5. A list of licensed software will be published on the UFS web-site on 01 March 2018 for your convenience.
  6. In cases where you’ve purchased software in your private capacity but loaded it onto a UFS-computer, please ensure that we register it in the central software register.

Please register a service request through our Service Desk (+27 51 401 2000) if you require our assistance in this regard.

Report Unlicensed Business Software


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