The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Cybercrime Unit has seen an increase
in phishing and spoofing scams and reminds the Army community to be cautious when opening
emails and to take extra precautions to protect personal information.
The Director of CID’s Major Cybercrime Unit, Edward Labarge, said, there has been a “massive
increase” in the number of phishing attempts since the outbreak of COVID-19.
“Cybercriminals and nation-state actors continue to exploit the fears related to the pandemic,” said
The MCU reports the main goal of a phishing attack is for cybercriminals or foreign adversaries to
“compromise a business network.”
A phishing email is an email designed to convince the recipient to divulge personal information,
banking or credit card information, or passwords. Whereas, spoofing occurs when a criminal
disguises an email address, sender name, phone number, or website URL to make it appear the user
is interacting with a trusted source. Generally, there is only a subtle difference by only changing one
letter or a number. For example, the email received appears to be from supervisor, family member
or business associate. The cybercriminal attempts to manipulate the user into believing the spoofed
communications are real.
“The end goal of these campaigns is to obtain login credentials such as usernames and passwords to
compromise systems and steal propriety and sensitive data,” said Labarge.
MCU official’s state combining both phishing and email spoofing allows cybercriminals to use
deception to convince recipients into believing an email was sent from a legitimate and reputable
organization or company. Typically, the email states a specific action is required. The sender’s
email address looks authentic, the subject line appears valid, and the email body contains a simple
and somewhat convincing message usually accompanied by a website link.
Phishing may occur on both personal and business or government emails. However, it is more likely
to occur in personal email.
“From a government side of the house, DISA (Defense Information Systems Agency) does a great
job protecting the enterprise by filtering millions of phishing emails every month,” said Labarge.
“From a personal perspective, phishing emails are more apt to get through free email filters.
However, phishing is one of the most effective attack vectors out there and regardless whether you
are using a personal email or business email, you must always be on your ‘A’ game.”
Phishing is not a new scam and his been around for a long time. However, criminals are constantly
changing their approach by using various techniques to gain access. This includes: vishing scams
over the phone, voice email, or VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) calls; smishing scams via SMS
(text) messages; and pharming scams by installing malicious code on your computer redirecting you
to fake websites.
CID officials warn users to be cautious when opening emails and clicking on links in those emails.
Email service providers cannot detect all phishing and spoofed emails. Here are some steps you can
take to detect, protect, and report phishing and spoofed emails.
• Keep an eye out for incorrect spelling and poor grammar in emails.
• Pay close attention to the sender email address; click on the display name if the email
address is not visible.
• Be extra cautious if an email asks for personally identifiable information, financial account
information, or passwords.
• Be suspicious of emails asking you to click a link to change a password, especially if
password change request was not initiated.
• If the email seems suspicious, but you recognize the display name, contact the sender
offline, via call or text, to verify they sent the email. Do not use any phone numbers
provided in the email.
• Never click an unfamiliar link or download an attachment if you suspect the email is
• Type in URLs or use a search engine to locate websites, if you have to log into an account.
• Turn on spam filtering to stop the majority of phishing and spoofed emails. Keep in mind,
legitimate emails are sometimes flagged as spam emails.
• Scan your computer for malware regularly.
• Check account settings. If any accounts offer multifactor authentication, enable it for an
additional layer of security.
• Report phishing and spoofed emails to your email service provider for personal email
accounts. For official government and military email accounts, report them to your system
administrator or security representative.
• If you become a fraud, identity theft, or deceptive business practice victim, file a report with
your local CID office, the Federal Trade Commission and the Internet Crime Complaint
The Internet Crime Complaint Center has identified phishing and spoofing in the top five methods
cybercriminals used during 2019, to cause more than $350 million in victim losses.
Basic protective measures will aid in the reduction of compromised information and losses.
Important User Tips to Protect Against Cybercrimes
Companies generally don’t contact you to ask for your username or password.
Don’t click on anything in an unsolicited email or text message. Look up the company’s
phone number vice using the one provided in email and call the company to ask if the
request is legitimate.
Carefully examine the email address, URL, and spelling used in any correspondence.
Scammers use slight differences to trick your eye and gain your trust.
Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don’t
know and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you.
Set up two-factor (or multi-factor) authentication on any account that allows it
Be careful with what information is being shared online or on social media. By openly
sharing things like pet names, schools attended, family members, and birthday, a scammer
gains the information they need to guess password or answer security questions.
“When it comes to protecting against these types of attacks, you really need to incorporate
everything from the list,” said Labarge. “However, if you had to pick one, don’t click on links in
MCU recommends hovering over the hypertext of the link in the email to show where the actual
link is going.
Army personnel or their families who are victims of an Internet-based crime should report the crime
to their local CID office. Individuals can also report crime tips to CID anonymously via a
specialized application at https://www.cid.army.mil/report-a-crime.html.