Hackers can use a lot of different techniques to commit crimes in the digital age. At Dakota State University, students are learning about spear phishing and how hackers employ it to cause problems for their targets.
While many of us may be familiar with scam emails from someone overseas asking for money, spear phishing is a much more targeted version.
"Phishing and spear phishing happen all the time. It happens every day. As the Nigerian scams wane down, spear phishing and phishing are escalating," DSU instructor Kevin Streff said.
Streff says with spear phishing, a hacker will find out as much about you as they can using the Internet and then send you an email pretending to be someone or some business you trust. If you end up clicking on a link in the email, that's when the bad begins.
"It will install a key-stroke logger so the next time you log into your Internet banking system, the key-stroke logger goes to the hacker and then the hacker simply logs into the Internet banking system and messes with your money," Streff said.
Spear phishing is just one of many techniques students at DSU learn to get inside a hackers mind. You may be surprised, but DSU is known across the country for their techniques.
Britton Manahan, a Maryland-native, came to study in Madison after spending time at Florida State. He says no one is teaching ethical hacking like DSU and finding ways to combat spear phishing is important.
"What you can do if they do click on the link. You can get a key-logger or pull some information off their computer. I guess the main point is it's just scary how easy it's become and that's what we're learning in this class," Manahan said.
More than 300 students take part in DSU's information security program. 50 percent of phishing attacks happen in the financial sector.