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Democrats’ email to university leads to phishing attempt

August 30, 2018

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A University of Missouri spokesman on Wednesday said a Missouri Democratic Party email seeking interns ended up in the inboxes of most faculty, staff and students at the Columbia campus, and that someone then used the email addresses for a phishing attempt.

Christian Basi, the university spokesman, said the email slipped through the school’s spam filters and most people on the campus received at least one copy of it Monday. He said the party obtained two or three email address lists that enabled the email to spread as far as it did. The Columbia campus had an opening-day fall enrollment of nearly 30,000 students.

Party spokeswoman Brooke Goren in a statement said the email was sent widespread inadvertently.

“One of the coordinated staffers was reaching out to folks from a publicly available student directory they found online and they didn’t realize one address was a listserve,” Goren said. “It wasn’t anything intentional, they were just trying to get more students involved.”

Basi said the university did not provide an email list to Democrats, but that it is publicly available for $150 per campus and has been sold previously.

Once the mass email went out, Basi said a student’s email was hacked and the addresses from the Democrats’ email were used in a phishing attempt.

“We think what they did is they stripped out all of the actual information that was in the original email, put in another kind of a phish scam and realized that they could send it to the entire campus, and hit send,” Basi said.

To further complicate things, Basi said people who responded to the phishing scam inadvertently messaged the entire address list in a “reply all” email chain.

Basi said the snafu doesn’t appear to have caused significant issues, but outgoing emails were stalled for about 90 minutes Tuesday to root out problem messages.

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