Lydia Goedert ’24 planned to enjoy a “mental health day” last Saturday until she received an email with the subject line, “VIOLATION OF ACADEMIC INTEGRITY. THIS IS URGENT,” cutting her relaxation short.
“I was a little disoriented,” Goedert said. “I was trying to reset, focus on my mental health a bit. It’s funny because I didn’t see the email at first; I saw the subject line.”
Goedert said she immediately texted screenshots of the email to her friends and several group chats, adding that she had her suspicions that the email was fake.
Students like Goedert received the spam email on Saturday, which Stanford’s Information Security Office (ISO) confirmed was a fraud in a community alert later that afternoon. The alert warned students against opening hoax emails claiming that the recipient had been accused of violating the Stanford Honor Code.
“These emails claim to be from the Office of the University Registrar and accuse the recipient of violating the Honor Code and include a subject line, ‘VIOLATION OF ACADEMIC INTEGRITY. THIS IS URGENT!’ Please be aware that these emails are NOT authentic,” the community alert read.
The community alert email provided resources to protect students from fraudulent emails. In addition to cautioning students to be wary of links, the community alert encouraged students to immediately change their SUNet passwords if they feel their account is compromised. The alert also requested that community members report suspected phishing to the ISO team.
The fraudulent email outlined allegations of academic dishonesty and claimed to be sent from The Office of the University Registrar.
“Your user interface data reveal that you sought and engaged external assistance for your class work and assignments… Sources include your student account activity history, browser archives and Wi-Fi cache,” it read.
The email then directed students to go to a webpage where they could supposedly read the details about their violation. In bullet point format above the link, the accusations included, “Falsification and fabrication of Class assigned Work, Quizzes, Exams and Grades,” “plagiarism” and “receiving aid on academic assignments and exams.”
According to Goedert, the purpose of the spam email was unclear to her.
“When I think of spam, I think ‘I’m gonna give them money,’ but it just felt like they were just trying to mess with me. That’s a lot of work to like, just mess with someone,” Goedert said.
Goedert said she received a separate spam email with the subject line, “PROFESSIONAL ACADEMIC ASSISTANCE” from the same sender on Friday.