By Mia Milosevic
City College provides its students and staff with an official citymail email address, citing this as an important tool to use in college-related correspondence. However, citymail has long been the victim of a plethora of security issues – spam, emails with links infected with malware and fake login pages to various school-related websites that harvest the user’s information, which can later be used for identity theft. And, the problem has gotten worse, leaving students and faculty fearing for the safety of their personal information.
In emails sent to students, faculty and staff last month, the Office of Information Technology noted an increase in fraudulent activity including “impersonating high-level college employees.” To combat the problem, IT has taken the unusual step of tagging any email sent to a citymail account from a non-citymail account as “external,” making it easier for students to identify fraudulent emails in their inboxes. Most faculty and staff use ccny.cuny.edu or med.cuny.edu accounts, and emails from outside of CCNY are now also tagged as external. As the kinks are smoothed out, some have complained that even some internal emails – for instance from citymail to ccny.cuny.edu — have been tagged as external even if they come internally.
This entire email mess left many feeling frustrated.
“I have my citymail connected to my Amazon, Hulu, Spotify; that’s the only way to get student discounts,” says Paul Root, 21, an international relations major. “But now, if I got hacked, they’d have access to my finances. That’s just not okay!”
Faculty also complain about glitches in the system, including the ever-present threat of malicious spam emails. Deirdre Fishel, head of the MCA film/video program, complains that her inbox is often the target of these cyber attacks. “It feels like an incredible invasion of privacy,” she says. “I get very angry because I feel like people shouldn’t be able to get to me like that. This is something that needs to be handled immediately.”
Despite the City College community’s frustrations and fears, the IT Office continues to urge students and staff to actively use their citymail and ccny.cuny.edu accounts – though many have switched to gmail or another service to sidestep the problems. According to IT: “It is important that the official CCNY email account be checked for business communications and college related emails. Email addresses provided through CCNY other than the official email are supplemental.”