UCCS sticks with Office 365 over Google; student email target of hackers

Dec. 7, 2015

Rachel Librach
rlibrach@uccs.edu

Office 365

Going on its third year since making the Google to Microsoft Office 365 transition, UCCS IT and some students are still satisfied with that decision.

Office 365 is free to all students and includes features such as a Microsoft Exchange account, Outlook, Calendar, Contacts, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and One Drive, which allows students to hold a terabyte of space in that account.

Managers in the IT department said the transition from Google to Microsoft occurred for several reasons, and with the quality Office 365 offers students, they are not thinking about switching servers anytime soon.

“We [went with Microsoft Office 365] for many reasons, the main one being that Google would not agree that they wouldn’t mine our data and track our students,” said Jerry Wilson, chief information officer and assistant vice chancellor for Information Technology.

Students also enjoy Microsoft.

“Microsoft Office 365 is applicable, I use it pretty much every day and really haven’t run into any problems with it. I’ve been here four years so maybe I joined right when UCCS transitioned over to Microsoft,” said Eamon Kiely, senior English major.

Kirk Moore, director of Computing Services for IT, thinks this is a beneficial package for students.

“It really is very impressive what they are giving us. Office 365 is a great advantage to the students and Microsoft wants to get students engaged and technically geared because the workplace really does incorporate their data into these systems,” he said.

Microsoft has also added SharePoint, which functions much like GoogleDocs, allowing students to connect through their school emails and share documents in a cloud.

UCCS has an on-site licensing agreement with Microsoft for their lab computers and software. Then, Microsoft extended its services to students for free through the Office 365 package.

Student email protection

IT support on campus monitors the email system for any threats, but hackers are becoming more and more skilled in disguising their scams to look like official school emails.

“I like the student email when it works, I just have some issues and glitches occasionally,” said Drew Thistlethwaite, sophomore business major. “Otherwise, when it works I love it; it connects to my other emails, I can access it on the go, it’s perfect.”

Moore explained that when it comes to email security, there are common signs to look for when deciding if the email is a fraud.

“Some of these first come in looking like legitimate emails, but it really only takes a person to read through them to find the common signs of a fraud email; some signs include poor spelling or grammar, bizarre web addresses or a link that takes you to an unfamiliar website,” he said.

“Once faculty or students forward us these suspicious emails we try to rectify it as soon as possible. But fishers are getting very clever,” he added.

When hackers are able to access a student’s account, the hacker will try to send more fraudulent emails under the cover of someone else’s account.

“We’ve been the victims of a lot of successful phishing scams. The hackers will start spamming people to try to hack further into their account, then they will start using this hijacked account to send more infected emails out to the public,” explained Moore.

Infiltration from phishing can have negative effects.

“This gives us a bad reputation and some places will start blocking our emails and put us on their black list,” he said. “Then, it is our job to reach out to these organizations and reestablish trust and clarify that our system did get hacked and that we’ve rectified the mistake.”