Phishing and Spoofing-Masquerading Spam


Phishing can generally be defined as non-legitimate email you receive that tries to get you to provide the sender some type of personal information. The sender is "fishing" for info from you.
What are some elements of phishing email?
  • It could be in the form of an html-based email with a login page embedded.
  • It could be something as simple as someone emailing you requesting you to send them info directly.
    • And sometimes, the sender might have first created an account, like a gmail account, that looks similar to one you might already know, but not exactly the same.
    • Or it might be a masqueraded sender address. See the Spoofing (Masquerading)/Spear Phishing section below.
  • A phishing email might have a link to a login or info request page.
The above are just some examples of characteristics of phishing emails.
It is very important that you examine all incoming email to make sure it comes from a legitimate source. Your mail client should provide you a way to look at full mail or message headers so you can see if what you think is a legit address in the From: part of your message is actually the real address the sender is sending from. If you're unsure about an email, you should look up the person's email address off an official website (, etc.) and use the looked-up address to contact the email originator to confirm the email request. Remember, these spammers might simply change even one character in their own email email address from an email address you might recognize.
If your email has a link to a page, the text for the link you see in your email maybe not be where the link actually takes you. Examine the link carefully. If you're at a computer, you might be able to hover your pointer over the link to see its true URL.
Also, look for spelling or grammatical errors in an email. Sometimes, those could indicate that the email is not from a legitimate source.

Spoofing (Masquerading)/Spear Phishing

Spoofing or Masquerading is when someone sends an email and it appears to come from someone else. You you could receive spoofed/masqueraded email in the form of a phishing email. Please see above for info on phishing email.
Spear Phishing extends the masquerading, as spear phishing is a type of phishing spam where a spammer sends email that appears to be from someone you know/trust, but is actually from the spammer.
In the case of spear phishing, the spammer tries to get you to send them information (financial, etc.), as you might think you're actually sending it to the person you know/trust (and you're really not.)
Spear Phishing is a very dangerous type of email, and it's easy to fall prey to it. It has become a common personal information-fishing tactic. And... it's also a very easy thing for a spammer to do.
Spammers can make the From: address in your email look like any name or email address, like that of your trusted friend, family member, co-worker, etc. However, the actual e-mail was sent by the spammer. Examining the full mail headers for your email (different methods for each email client), can help you determine the actual sender's (spammer's) email address. (And it's also possible that the spammer's email address you see in the headers might not actually belong to the spammer, but rather and meial address the spammer has stolen.)
If you receive email that looks like it comes from someone you know, but the message content seems suspicious in some way, examine the mail carefully, including the mail headers for the actual sender's email address, to be sure it's legitimate. If you receive email asking for personally identifiable information, financial info, login credentials, etc., be wary, and make sure you are replying to the legitimate audience.
If you are not sure if the email is legit, contact the "sender" by an alternate means, e.g, by phone (a phone number you know is legit) or send a separate email to that individual (do not just click reply on the suspicious email) using an email address you know for that individual.

If You Receive Phishing/Spoofing Email...

If you receive phishing/spoofing email , especially if it's requesting you to log in to the JHU login page, please be wary of it, and if you think it's not legit, do not click on any included links there!


...if you receive Phishing/Spoofing email at your account

If you receive spam(including phishing, etc.) email at your account directly, you can visit JHU's How-to page for reporting spam. As part of the process, you'll want to forward that email (including any mail headers, if possible, by forwarding it as an attachment), to (and perhaps make the Subject Line say SPAM), so that JHU can examine it and take proper action. Additionally, when you forward the spam email to JHU, also cc: (WSE IT's helpdesk.)

...if you receive Phishing/Spoofing email at your account

If you receive the spam/phishing email directly at your CS account, please forward it (including any mail headers, if possible, by forwarding it as an attachment), to so that our CS IT Support Team can examine it and take proper action.

Filtering Spam Received At Your CS Email Account

Please see: Spam Filtering At CS

A JHU IT-Prepared Doc To Help Its Users Identify Phishing Emails

JHU has put together a pdf that provides helpful information for identifying phishing emails. It's geared to those using JHU's email system, but many of its tips apply to all that receive email.
Please read: Phishing-Safe_Links_and_Detecting_Suspicious_URLs.pdf

Do's & Don'ts Of Protecting Yourself From Phishing, Malware, & Ransomware-based Emails Scams

In a recent email to the JHU public, Darren Lacey, JHU's Chief Information Security Officer, compiled an excellent collection of Do's and Don'ts to protect yourself from phishing, malware, and ransomware-based email scams. Click the link below to read Darren's email.
Be Cautious and Avoid Phishing Attacks - Do's & Don'ts

Training Course Opportunity To Help You Identify Phishing Emails

JHU offers an excellent online course for the end-user regarding electronic information security and data management that includes a section on identifying phishing emails.
To get info on the course, you need to be on the JHU VPN or directly on a JHU network, and then browse to:
Course: JHU Electronic Information Security and Data Management