Cyber criminals targeting .edu emails and sharing them on the Dark Web

March 29, 2017

By: Sarah Simmons, Fox5

Computer experts are seeing a huge increase in stolen email accounts up for sale on the Dark Web, specifically emails from universities around the country.

The Dark Web is where cyber criminals live. They are buying and selling emails and accounts used by students, faculty, staff and even alumni.

These email addresses — .edu — are hot commodities. Cyber security experts have discovered a huge spike in those emails being compromised on the Dark Web. Fake .edu emails are also on the rise.

“.edu’s come with a confidence about it,” said Adam Benson of the Digital Citizens Alliance. “You see an .edu coming and you think it is a person from that community. It is sort of a stamp of approval. If someone sees that and they think I can trust this person because they are from my school, they are a faculty member or something else. But in fact, a lot of these are either stolen or it is very common to have fakes and that is just as much of a threat.”

Fake email accounts can be used to launch malware once clicked upon. The Digital Citizens Alliance has released a report showing which universities had the biggest problem with email breaches.

Search results showing schools with the most credentials offered on the Dark Web:

1. University of Michigan
2. Penn State
3. Minnesota
4. Michigan State
5. Ohio State

Highest ratio of total stolen email accounts to total current users:

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
2. Baylor
3. Cornell
4. Carnegie Mellon
5. Virginia Tech

In the D.C. region, schools such as the University of Maryland, George Mason University and others have all been exposed in large data breaches.

The research firm ID Agent showed us one after another of compromised emails and passwords exposed to hackers.

“Individuals at those universities, whether you are talking about students, faculty, staff, are using their educational emails on these third-party websites,” said Matt Solomon of ID Agent. “The big issue with this is we are seeing exposed passwords. In many cases, clear text passwords.”

And it is not just universities who need to be on alert. We asked what they found when they put in FOX 5 DC?

“We found quite a few exposures and some indicators of possible network passwords,” he said.

They want to stress from this report that universities are not being targeted individually. It is more likely they have been exposed during the big data breaches.

So what do you do? Don’t use passwords over and over again. If you have a tried and true password you have used for years for access to different sites – that can be dangerous. Don’t even use slight variations on passwords. Hackers have the ability to figure it out pretty quickly.

Want to know if your school made the list? Click here to read the full report by the Digital Citizens Alliance.