Schools impacted by Google email spam

By Douglas McCulloch | May 04, 2017
Photo by: Douglas McCulloch An email received by Dartmouth Week.

Dartmouth schools were not immune to a large-scale email scam that made its way through Google email accounts across the country on May 3.

Jonathan Gallishaw, chief technology officer for Dartmouth Public Schools, said his office received about a dozen reports of a spam email spreading through school email accounts. No sensitive data was affected, he said.

The school district uses both Google email addresses and the Google platform for all of its employees and students.

The emails contained a link to malicious code, disguised as an invitation to edit a Google Doc. To email users, the address appeared to be from someone they know.

Gallishaw immediately sent a district-wide message alerting students and staff about the issue. He recommended limiting email and Google Docs usage until the problem could be identified and mitigated.

That happened fairly quickly, he said. He reached out to Google, but the company was already aware of the problem. In a matter of hours, the problem was fixed. In a statement issued at 5:30 p.m., Google said it had deactivated the accounts responsible for the spam, and blocked it from working.

It is not known how many spam notices were sent in total to-and-from the district's approximately 4,000 email accounts.

While this threat is over, Gallishaw said it’s just a matter of time before a new one emerges. He recommends vigilance to avoid becoming a victim.

“As always, be suspicious of strange emails, even if they say ‘important’ or ‘open now,’ and never give out personal information over email,” Gallishaw said.

Town email accounts were not affected by the incident because town employees do not use Google accounts, said Michael Courville, the town's MIS Director.

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