Spearphishing Defense Tips for Students

Cyber Criminals Conducting Successful Spearphishing Campaigns Against Students at Multiple College and Universities

Tips to share with students

By David Maxwell, Chief Information Security Officer & Director of the Information Security Practice at Columbia Advisory Group

The FBI has identified successful spearphishing campaigns directed at college and university students, especially during periods when financial aid funds are disbursed in large volumes. The Department of Education identified a similar spearphishing campaign targeting multiple Universities. In this attack, the cybercriminals sent spearphishing emails requesting students’ login credentials for the University. The email invited them to view and confirm their updated billing statement by logging into the school’s student portal. After gaining access, cybercriminals changed the students’ direct deposit destinations to bank accounts.

Protecting Yourself

For a phishing attack to work, the bad guys need to trick you into doing something. Fortunately, there are clues that a message is an attack. Here are the most common ones:

  • It is becoming much easier for cybercriminals today to find or purchase personal information so expect more personalized scams.
  • The email creates a sense of urgency, demanding “immediate action” before something bad happens, like closing your account. The attacker wants to rush you into making a mistake without thinking.
  • You receive an email with an attachment that you were not expecting or the email entices you to open the attachment. Examples include an email saying it has an attachment with details of Financial Aid or a letter from the IRS saying you are being prosecuted.
  • The email requests highly sensitive information, such as your credit card number or password.
  • The email says it comes from an official organization or uses a personal email address like @gmail.com, @yahoo.com or @hotmail.com.
  • The link looks odd or not official. One tip is to hover your mouse cursor over the link until a pop-up shows you where that link really takes you. If the link in the email doesn’t match the pop-up destination, don’t click it. On mobile devices, holding down your finger on a link gets the same pop-up.
  • You receive a message from someone you know, but the tone or wording just does not sound like him or her. If you are suspicious, call the sender to verify they sent it. It is easy for a cyber attacker to create an email that appears to be from a friend or coworker.

If you believe an email or message is a phishing attack, simply delete it or send it as an attachment to Email@Domain.edu. Ultimately, common sense is your best defense.

Do you need help managing cybersecurity at your educational institution? Contact one of our experts about cybersecurity assessments and fractional ISO services. 

Supplier Spotlight: Columbia Advisory Group

In conversation with Steve Erwin: Trends and Challenges for IT security in education
Our own Steve Erwin, Senior Vice President & Chief Technology Officer talks about present day trends and challenges for IT security in Education with E&I Cooperative Services. Click here for detailed interview.

Read More: https://www.eandi.org/resources/ei-blog/supplier-spotlight-columbia-advisory-group/

New Texas A&M University System RELLIS Campus IT Services Awarded To Columbia Advisory Group

New-Texa--A-M-University-System-RELLIS-Campus-IT-Services-Awarded-To-Columbia-Advisory-Group

Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) was selected as the nimble IT support service partner needed for the newly formed RELLIS Campus. TAMUS selected CAG after reviewing responses to a thorough Request for Proposal.

COLLEGE STATION, TexasJan. 8, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Located eight miles from Texas A&M University College Station campus, the newly formed RELLIS Campus sits on 2,000 acres and offers classes to students pursuing degrees at campuses across Texas. As a pioneer in this shared-campus model, TAMUS needed to find a nimble IT support service partner to integrate student recruitment, enrollment, tuition payment, course scheduling, reporting, administrative and other IT needs across multiple parent campuses and data systems. After reviewing responses to a thorough Request for Proposal, TAMU System selected Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) as a partner in this new campus venture.

“CAG’s team of IT experts are accustomed to the aggressive timelines and rigorous and evolving demands that an innovative project of this type will naturally entail. Their higher-ed focused IT services team will enable us to move quickly to provide integrated service to both our students and our member campuses,” said Mark Stone, Chief Information Officer for Texas A&M University System.   

The contract also includes future integration of learning management systems (LMS) and single sign-on (SSO) capabilities.  The campus will feature high-tech, high-impact research facilities for technology development, testing and commercialization and a collaborative education complex to offer multiple academic degrees from many universities within the A&M System and Blinn College, as well as offer opportunities for workforce skills training to the surrounding communities. David McLaughlin, CEO of CAG, says, “Since the RELLIS campus is a completely new entity for TAMU System, this project required innovative thinking and a deep knowledge of higher ed processes and technology. Our team is ready to adapt quickly as the campus grows and needs evolve.”

About Columbia Advisory Group

Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) is a highly experienced Information Technology (IT) consulting firm. With 100+ years of combined technology experience and business acumen, CAG’s team has assessed and helped improve the performance of more than 300 technology organizations and IT departments. By focusing on simple, meaningful and practical solutions combined with straight-forward analysis and recommendations, CAG’s team has experience in many regulatory and economic environments with companies and organizations of all sizes. CAG not only offers a deep understanding of IT, but its solutions are software and hardware agnostic. Whether a client is high growth or economically challenged, CAG can adapt to the complexities and nuances of that business. Based in Dallas, Texas, CAG works extensively with clients throughout the U.S. 

About the A&M System

The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $4.2 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities and seven state agencies, the Texas A&M System educates more than 150,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $946 million in FY 2015 and helped drive the state’s economy.

E&I Cooperative Services Selects Columbia Advisory Group for IT Services

DALLAS, Nov. 28, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) announced today that E&I Cooperative Services (E&I), the largest member-owned, non-profit purchasing cooperative serving the needs of education nationwide, has expanded its portfolio of contracts by adopting a CAG contract for Information Technology services. The contract, which was awarded by Texas A&M University-Commerce in a competitive solicitation process, will help E&I members in higher education and K-12 build, manage, and optimize IT infrastructure and services across their institutions, including hardware, software, cloud, enterprise applications, and more.

Specifically, members will be able to access CAG’s expert support for application management, cloud services, ERP implementation, Student Information Systems, Learning Management Systems, audio visual design, service desk support, and many other IT services, on a per project or fixed-fee contract basis.

“CAG brings exceptional consulting, strategy, data security and IT support services in a way that is flexible and scalable in every area of information technology—and at cost-effective rates,” said Keith Fowlkes, Vice President for Technology at E&I. “We are proud to work with a company with such a proven track record in education and many other sectors. They provide excellent full-service IT support to Texas A&M University-Commerce, and we recognized that the contract can significantly benefit many of our member institutions that have similar needs,” he concluded.

According to Travis Ball, Chief Procurement Officer at Texas A&M University-Commerce, “From Banner and Oracle support to an audio/visual refresh of our student center, CAG has proven to be a dedicated and professional partner in our IT success. We highly recommend the CAG team to any educational institution needing expert support.”

“With this exciting, new contract addition, we are more equipped than ever to offer our members the IT services and support they need to improve their operations while optimizing spend,” said Gary D. Link, Senior Vice President, Contracts at E&I. “Our ultimate goal is to continuously bring value beyond lowered costs, and we are confident that CAG will provide tremendous value to our members.”

E&I’s full contract portfolio can be found here.

About E&I

E&I Cooperative Services (E&I) is the only member-owned, non-profit purchasing cooperative solely focused on serving education and related facilities. E&I delivers expertise, solutions, and services through a diverse portfolio of competitively solicited contracts and value-added services. By leveraging the knowledge and purchasing power of its nationwide membership, E&I helps higher education and K-12 institutions reduce costs, optimize supply chain efficiencies, and save time on the RFP process. The Cooperative’s member-driven competitive solicitation process has been validated by the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP) as complying with generally accepted procurement standards. For more information, please visit www.eandi.org.

About Columbia Advisory Group

Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) is a highly experienced Information Technology (IT) consulting firm. With 100+ years of combined technology experience and business acumen, CAG’s team has assessed and helped improve the performance of more than 300 technology organizations and IT departments. By focusing on simple, meaningful and practical solutions combined with straight-forward analysis and recommendations, CAG’s team has experience in many regulatory and economic environments with companies and organizations of all sizes. CAG not only offers a deep understanding of IT, but its solutions are software and hardware agnostic. Whether a client is high growth or economically challenged, CAG can adapt to the complexities and nuances of that business. Based in Dallas, Texas, CAG works extensively with clients throughout the U.S. For more information, visit www.columbiaadvisory.com

About Texas A&M University-Commerce

Founded in 1889, Texas A&M University-Commerce is a member of The Texas A&M University System. Located in Northeast Texas, A&M-Commerce is home to more than 12,000 students, four academic colleges, a thriving graduate school, and more than 140-degree programs. As the region’s focal point of higher education, A&M-Commerce offers students facilities ranging from the world-class Keith D. McFarland Science Building and University Planetarium to the Sam Rayburn Student Center, to a fully equipped recreational facility and music hall. The university also has convenient locations in Corsicana, downtown Dallas, Midlothian, McKinney, Mesquite, and Rockwall.

Columbia Advisory Group Awarded ISO 9001:2015 Quality Certification for Delivery of IT Services

DALLAS, Oct. 16, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Effective September 21, 2018, Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) was certified for delivery of IT services under International Organization for Standardization

ISO 9001 is the international standard that specifies requirements for a quality management system (QMS). Organizations apply the standard to demonstrate their ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements. It is the most popular standard in the ISO 9000 series and the only standard in the series to which organizations can certify.

“We are pleased to have achieved this certification to ISO 9001:2015 and believe it speaks to the culture of ‘Continuous Improvement’ here at CAG,” states CAG Quality, Risk and Compliance Director Lori DeMello. “We are focused on exceeding our customer’s expectations in all areas and this certification speaks to that ongoing commitment.”

CAG Chief Technology Officer Steve Erwin explains what the certification will do for CAG and its customers: “ISO standards and processes make it easier to share technological advances and good management practices as well as to disseminate innovation. The widespread adoption of International Standards means that we can develop and offer services meeting specifications that have broad international acceptance in their sectors, allowing us to supply customers in many markets around the world.”

About ISO 9001:2015

ISO 9001 was first published in 1987 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), an international agency composed of the national standards bodies of more than 160 countries. The current version of ISO 9001 was released in September 2015.

About Columbia Advisory Group

Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) is a highly experienced Information Technology (IT) consulting firm. With 100+ years of combined technology experience and business acumen, CAG’s team has assessed and helped improve the performance of more than 300 technology organizations and IT departments. By focusing on simple, meaningful and practical solutions combined with straight-forward analysis and recommendations, CAG’s team has experience in many regulatory and economic environments with companies and organizations of all sizes. CAG not only offers a deep understanding of IT, but its solutions are software and hardware agnostic. Whether a client is high growth or economically challenged, CAG can adapt to the complexities and nuances of that business. Based in Dallas, Texas, CAG works extensively with clients throughout the U.S. For more information, visit www.columbiaadvisory.com

Columbia Advisory Group receives recognition for University internship program

COMMERCE, Texas, Jan. 9, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — On December 1st, the College of Business at Texas A&M University-Commerce recognized the Information Technology (IT) Managed Services firm Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) for sponsoring a new internship program. The program pairs graduate students from Computer Science and Business Analytics to solve real-world problems while working at CAG.

Chris Frost, Director of Student Information Systems for CAG at A&M-Commerce, explained that the program grew naturally from the Graduate Assistant program that he revamped for the school and created an opportunity for students to earn college credit and gain work experience on a new Document Management System rollout.

“This has been, and continues to be, one of the highlights of working with A&M-Commerce. The students brought their creativity and curiosity to the guided internship project at CAG. We achieved superior results on real-world projects while helping students gain an edge as they prepare to enter an ultra-competitive job market,” Frost explained. “Bringing together the knowledge of two leading University departments was a win-win-win for A&M-Commerce, their students and Columbia Advisory Group.”

Students who are pursuing a Master of Science degree in Computer Information Systems or a Master of Computational Science degree competed for the internship opportunity by submitting resumes and participating in interviews. “The practical skills honed by competing for a job are lessons in and of themselves, and the internship provided invaluable career insight,” noted Dr. Sang Suh, Computer Science Department Head.

Across campus, Dr. Chris Myers, Marketing and Business Analytics Department Head, said that the cross-disciplinary nature of the student internship team allowed them to “cross-pollinate ideas and strategies to solve problems more effectively, while enriching their academic experience. Employers increasingly seek practical experience and business acumen within technical teams, so these interns are well-prepared.”

As an IT consulting partner with various colleges and universities, Columbia Advisory Group has led on-campus projects for numerous higher-education campuses. As they pointed out during a recent on-campus recognition banquet, they’ve hired several students who participated in their programs after graduation from college. David McLaughlin, President and CEO of Columbia Advisory Group, said, “the chance to hire proven performers and Texas A&M Commerce grads to work for us is a unique opportunity we couldn’t pass up.”

About Columbia Advisory Group

Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) is a well-respected Information Technology (IT) consulting firm. An established and proven company with 100+ years of combined technology experience and business acumen, CAG’s team has assessed and helped improve the performance of more than 300 technology organizations and IT departments. By focusing on simple, meaningful and practical solutions combined with straight-forward analysis and recommendations, CAG’s team has experience in many regulatory and economic environments with companies and organizations of all sizes. CAG not only offers a deep understanding of IT, but its solutions are software and hardware agnostic. Whether a client is high growth or economically challenged, CAG can adapt to the complexities and nuances of that business. Based in Dallas, Texas, CAG works extensively with clients throughout the U.S. For more information, visit www.columbiaadvisory.com

About Texas A&M University-Commerce

Founded in 1889, Texas A&M University-Commerce is a member of The Texas A&M UniversitySystem. Located in Northeast Texas, A&M-Commerce is home to more than 12,000 students, four academic colleges, a thriving graduate school, and more than 140-degree programs. As the region’s focal point of higher education, A&M-Commerce offers students facilities ranging from the world-class Keith D. McFarland Science Building and University Planetarium to the Sam Rayburn Student Center, to a fully equipped recreational facility and music hall. The university also has convenient locations in Corsicana, downtown Dallas, Midlothian, McKinney, Mesquite, and Rockwall.

About the A&M System

The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $4.2 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities and seven state agencies, the Texas A&M System educates more than 150,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $946 million in FY 2015 and helped drive the state’s economy.

CEO: David McLaughlin (D Magazine)

Columbia Advisory Group might only be two-and-a-half years old, but the information-technology consulting firm has already worked with more than 300 tech organizations and IT departments. Credit for much of that goes to David McLaughlin, the firm’s 50-year-old founder, and CEO. After co-founding MetaSolv Software during the 1990s tech boom—MetaSolv was sold to Oracle in 2006 for $219 million—the native Texan spent the next few years leading consulting practices for various companies. Eventually, he got together with a group of friends to launch Columbia Advisory Group in 2012. McLaughlin is also a philanthropist, serving as a non-medical board member for the Pediatric Epilepsy Research Foundation. Whether in business with his employees and clients or in his charitable endeavors, he says his biggest impulse is helping people and propelling them toward success. 

First Job

Working for a greenskeeper at a golf course. We weren’t directly supervised, so we had to get things done on our own. 

Current Company Culture

The people who work here are very independent-minded. Even the most junior people need minimal direction and are very self-motivated.

Management Style

I try to do and show the things that I need people to do; let them see that, and then find their own way and own style of doing it.

Success Strategies

The most important thing for our company is to continue to grow and cultivate our future leaders. You have to have the technical background and the communication skills to continue to bring people along. 

LessonsLearned

The things that don’t seem like a great career move or a great career choice can end up being the most fun and interesting things you do. 

Other Careers Considered Careers

I was going to be a military pilot! 

Strengths

My ability to maintain some level of calm whenever everything else is in chaos. I think I’m generally an optimistic and kind person, too. 

Weakness

I think a lot of us technology folks are generally pretty impatient, and it’s something I have to work on. I want things done yesterday. 

Motivation

Solving problems for companies, for investors, making people successful.

Biggest Challenge

Training and bringing along the next generation of senior people. It’s just a different paradigm. 

Family

My wife and I have been married for 20 years and we had one son; he was special needs, and he passed away about 7 years ago. He was sick for many years. It was a huge challenge. 

Best Advice

My dad wasn’t a big fan of quitting anything. Once you commit to something, you stay with it. It seems pretty simple, but it comes into play every day. 

Just For Fun

My wife and I like the outdoors and we hike the mountains with our two Boston Terriers, Chili, and Taco.

Columbia Advisory Group Featured in Dallas Business Journal

Dallas Business Journal – Texas A&M has negotiated a master professional services contract that allows the system’s universities to use Columbia Advisory Group’s services to help lower the cost of tracking student information, including applications, financial aid and other student data.

“CAG has an excellent track record in this field, including keeping costs within budget,” said Mark Stone, Chief Information Officer of Texas A&M. “We will be able to improve services and compliance while also reducing our overall spend.”

Stone estimated that the cost of tracking student information, on average, could be reduced by 30 percent.

Columbia creates and provides detailed IT analysis and solutions to deliver better financial visibility, identify and mitigate risks, and improve performance. The industries representative of its clients include higher education, health care and pharmacy, private equity and venture capital, manufacturing, financial services, real estate, as well as media and publishing. Approximately 40 to 50 percent of its work is in higher education, 10 to 15 percent in the private equity/venture capital sector, and the remainder in health care and manufacturing.

As an information technology consulting firm, it is software and hardware agnostic. Based in Dallas, the 100-employee firm works with clients throughout the United States.

David McLaughlin, president and CEO of Columbia, spoke with the Dallas Business Journal about its company philosophy:

What is your company’s growth strategy?

Our DNA comes from working primarily out of the private equity sector and venture capital sector, several of us have worked in that sector for a lot of years with companies and organizations that are fast growth. I think a lot of our growth will continue to be in the private equity and venture capital sector, where we are working with them on acquiring companies and helping them approve operations on existing companies they are invested in, but it also has translated well for us into several other sectors that are growing rapidly, including higher education.

Our ability to assist organizations with not only IT performance but with compliance and also with cost savings and management — getting the most out of what they invest.

Similarly, the cost of health care is important but so is compliance and the ability for technology to perform so that organizations can be more efficient. There is a lot of growth in those areas.

Is your approach the same irrespective of the sector?

From a technology standpoint similar things are important. Most IT and technology organizations have a lot of similarities. Everyone uses networks, email, most of them have financials.

Probably 60 to 70 percent of IT and technology groups are similar. And, there are some things that are specific to that industry that you have to know. But a lot of it is about fundamentals, if you can get the technology fundamentals right, there are quite a few sectors that those fundamentals apply to.

What are some of the big issues you’ve seen in security?

Security is a very hot topic across the different industries that we work in. A big component is fundamentals, if people do the things their technology groups ask them to do — changing passwords appropriately, using the right types of passwords. Trying to avoid clicking on things they really should avoid. There will always be technologically sophisticated attacks, those are getting more prominent, but a lot of the security issues people have are very basic.

Columbia Advisory Group Selected by The Texas A&M University System to Improve Cost Effectiveness and Compliance of Student Information Systems

DALLAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) has been selected by The Texas A&M University System (TAMUS) with the goal of significantly lowering the operating cost of delivering Student Information System services while also providing enhanced support of audit and compliance functions.

“Our substantial experience with student information systems at several TAMUS campuses, as well as our ability to improve audit and security performance helped us win the opportunity to provide these services for all members,” said David McLaughlin, President and CEO of CAG. “We’ve built an outstanding team and operating model that gets results. We look forward to making that standard available to all TAMUS members.”

The Texas A&M University System negotiated a master professional services contract that allows the System’s universities to use CAG services to help lower the cost of tracking student information, including applications, financial aid and other student data.

“CAG has an excellent track record in this field, including keeping costs within budget,” said Mark Stone, Chief Information Officer, Texas A&M University System. “We will be able to improve services and compliance while also reducing our overall spend.”

Stone estimated that the cost of tracking student information, on average, could be reduced by 30 percent.

CAG works with its clients to create and provide detailed IT analysis and solutions. CAG’s IT assessment and due diligence services provide better financial visibility, identify and mitigate IT risks, and improve IT performance results. The company is known for working with difficult and demanding IT problems in a variety of economic, regulatory and budgetary environments. The industries representative of their clients include higher education, healthcare and pharmacy, private equity and venture capital, manufacturing, financial services, real estate, as well as media and publishing.

Columbia Advisory Group Experienced Record Growth in 2015

Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) recently announced highlights from another record growth year in 2015. CAG grew more than 50 percent from 2014, a rate it has exceeded in each of the previous three years. CAG also added many new clients in the higher education, health care and financial services sectors.
“We are truly excited by the momentum of our company and the passion our employees have for making each customer successful,” said David McLaughlin, President and CEO of CAG. “We have a strategic focus to deliver the best solutions to our clients by providing detailed and insightful IT analysis, offering best-in-class managed services, and providing the right expertise to help our clients achieve their objectives.”

To support increasing client demand, CAG has appointed two senior executives – Lindsay Boykin as Director of Business Development and David Maxwell as Director of the company’s Information Security Practice. Boykin and Maxwell collectively have more than 50 years of experience guiding companies. CAG added employees in Houston and San Antonio, Texas as well as Atlanta, Georgia. All of whom are collocated with clients for on-site support and consulting.
“Our employees are incredibly focused on helping our customers improve their IT and business functions, and it shows in the tremendous growth we experienced in 2015,” stated McLaughlin. “I am extremely optimistic about our 2016 growth and welcoming new clients across the U.S.”
CAG works with its clients to create and provide detailed IT analysis and solutions. CAG’s IT assessment and due diligence services provide better visibility into IT spend, IT risks and their mitigation and improve IT performance results. The company is known for working with difficult and demanding IT problems in a variety of economic, regulatory and budgetary environments. The industries representative of their clients include higher education, health care and pharmacy, private equity and venture capital, manufacturing, financial services, real estate, as well as media and publishing.

About Columbia Advisory Group:

Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) is a dynamic Information Technology (IT) consulting firm. An established and proven company with 100+ years of combined technology experience and business acumen, CAG’s team has assessed and helped improve the performance of more than 300 technology organizations and IT departments. By focusing on simple, meaningful and practical solutions combined with straight-forward analysis and recommendations, CAG’s team has experience in many regulatory and economic environments with companies and organizations of all sizes. CAG not only offers a deep understanding of IT, but its solutions are software and hardware agnostic. Whether a client is high growth or economically challenged, CAG can adapt to the complexities and nuances of that business. Based in Dallas, Texas, CAG works extensively with clients throughout the U.S. For more information, visit www.columbiaadvisory.com.