Reporter says "phishing attack" tricked her into believing she got a professorship at Harvard

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Harsh. Falling for this apparently caused her to resign from her job.

Unfortunately, she doesn’t yet understand that the police will not be able to solve this. And Harvard University had nothing at all to do with it, so there’s nothing for them to take seriously. She’s simply SOL.


So very strange. It’s hard for me to imagine [as an academic insider who makes job offers for faculty positions] that anyone who was in a position to actually be offered a job at Havard could fall for a fake job offer from Harvard.


Er, isn’t the fundamental tenet of journalism “research”. I’m a gardener. I wouldn’t fall for this shit. No sympathy, sorry.


Just one setback. Harvard doesn’t have a journalism program.

They do have the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School, but I highly doubt the phishers (if they exist) are aware of it.

Even more difficult when it’s being offered on the pretext that she’s an accomplished journalist who does her research.


Yeah I didn’t understand that part. Did she also urge the Prince of Nigeria to look into this for her?


Maybe the take away here isn’t that this woman is an idiot, but that these sorts of phishing attacks are getting harder to suss out and sophisticated, even for educated people. :woman_shrugging:


I’d suggest that most non-academics have no clue how the academic job market works. I constantly have to explain it to my far smarter than me husband and he’s still not fully grokked how it functions. Hell, actually academics have a tough time navigating it. It is an opaque system fraught with all sorts of landmines that most don’t even know are there. It’s especially tough for those of us who don’t have Phds from the Ivy league.

So maybe we shouldn’t all go down the road of sneering at this woman for getting tricked. She’s the victim here, and it’s going to fuck up her life for the foreseeable future.

She’s from India [ETA: corrected to correct country] too, so… :woman_shrugging: Most of us probably don’t have a running list of academic departments from foreign universities in our heads.


Phishing is a type of social engineering attack often used to steal user data, including login credentials and credit card numbers and since it seems none of these things happened I’m inclined to think it was a prank.


I completely understand falling for something like this initially. I work for an Ivy and even I didn’t know off the top of my head that Harvard doesn’t have a journalism department.

But there has to be something else going on here. Of course during the pandemic, you can run a job search without the candidate ever coming to campus — and all the interviews being Zoom calls where everyone’s at home. But you would have to be very naive to think you’d get a faculty job at Harvard without talking to other faculty, and anyone who’s serious would research those faculty, their research interests, etc., etc. I am having a hard time imagining a reporter not doing that kind of research. Did this “phishing attack” involve a bunch of people pretending to be Harvard faculty interviewing her for hours?


People for whom it is hard to imagine falling for such a scam are typically the ones most likely to fall for such a scam.


I’m curious just how deep the rabbit hole goes here. Did the phishers set up job interviews, phone calls with fake faculty, etc…?

Certainly she didn’t get an anonymous email saying “congratulation! You has been selected for Professor of Harvard1 Please click the link below and fill out the job application with all of your personal details to start your new job at HARVARD UNIVEERSITY!”


I want to have sympathy here, but… there wasn’t an interview? Her only contacts with the school were via email? Who gets a job offer by email with no other contact?

EDIT: More information has come to light, so I’m editing here to point out there was an elaborate fake interview and everything. My statement above is victim-blaming, plain and simple.


Isn’t part of the premise of this kind of targeted attack is that they’re offering you something they know you want, so your desire outweighs your critical thinking? It’s a classic con. I mean, I live in Cambridge, I know people at Harvard at MIT, and know that some people will deliberately stretch some tenuous connections to claim association with the universities. So the notion that someone’s ego would overrule their judgment here doesn’t seem that farfetched.


When I was at an Ivy we did hire one or two people into faculty positions without a formal interview process. But those were nationally-recognized people in their field. It did not go well at all, and makes for great cocktail-party gossip.

That said, she is describing a pretty sophisticated phishing attempt [to what end it’s hard to tell]. So it’s very possible, inferring, that she received e-mails from “the chair of the School of Journalism” as well as from a “Professor.” Honestly Id’ bet that someone familiar with academia could likely pull it off on someone outside of academia but in a field. Especially someone outside the US not familiar with inside-the-US academic hiring and culture. As with @Mindysan33, who writes this upstream, I’ve tried for years to explain to my spouse how hiring works. She’s smarter than me and it’s still byzantine. And then she got hired into a Lecturer position, entirely by e-mail, because they knew her, knew her reputation, and needed some classes taught… So, there ya go.


For a Journalist, I would imagine that the more valuable data to steal would be the identity of sources for stories, and/ or the ability to use their press credentials as your own until you were discovered.


She says that they did get some personal information, which I’m guessing could be used to get other kinds of info.

But she’s not an academic (but a journalist it seems) and those of us who are in academia know how complicated hiring is, and that it’s not always done the traditional way, especially for those who aren’t academics…


Particularly in an entirely different country.


To be fair, I think the job market for academics is generally somewhat consistent across borders? But then again, I’ve never applied for anything overseas, so…


I don’t know. But then, that underscores the point.