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Recently 36 million names, addresses, and phone numbers of registered users at the Ashley Madison website were posted on the internet. All these records are now out in the open, exposing highly sensitive personally identifiable information and credit card transactions. The Office of Information Technology, or OIT, would like to remind users about the potential fallouts from data breaches.

Reports indicate that the Ashley Madison hack is already being used for blackmail purposes. If you become a target of blackmail, contact local law enforcement as soon as possible. Internet criminals also exploit data breaches by sending spam, phishing attempts, and using social engineering tactics to make people click links or open infected attachments. A number of fake websites have been established in response to the Ashley Madison incident. These websites offer a service to check if a specific email address was compromised, but they really just want to verify and collect additional information for the purpose of committing identity theft or selling false protection software.

Be on the lookout for an increase in phishing attempts and threatening email messages. Remember the phishing warning signs:

1. Urgent Language – phishing attempts often use threatening or urgent language so you’ll take immediate action
2. General Greeting – usually phishing messages use a general greeting like Dear Customer
3. URLs Don’t Match – don’t click links in message because the links are often misleading
4. Avoid the Obvious – do you even have an account with the company in question?
5. Request for Personal Information – if an email asks you for your username, password or bank account information by completing a form or clicking a link, don’t do it; verify the legitimacy of the message via phone or in person

For more information about data breaches, vist the related news announcement on the OIT Homepage.