As October’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month comes to a close, we thought it appropriate to share this story, which first appeared in the 2017-2018 ITS Annual Report.
Other information security posters have come and gone at UNC-Chapel Hill, but the phishing awareness posters that Yale University’s Patrick Lynch shared with ITS years ago continue to resonate with the Carolina campus community.
Lynch’s clever and eye-catching collection of posters are still displayed in lunchrooms and along hallways in buildings across the University. Who isn’t familiar with the menacing shark that readies itself, with sharp teeth protruding from its open mouth, as a cute little goldfish is seen just above the water’s surface. “In phishing you are the fish,” the poster header proclaims. Lynch’s series of Phind the phish posters are equally memorable: a skunk among black-and-white puppies, an owl among kittens, and a grenade camouflaged to look like the pineapples around it.
“I think the posters work because they are not technical, and are focused on humor and human nature,” said Lynch, a writer, artist and photographer who retired from Yale in 2016 after 45 years with the institution. “Even for someone in IT it’s sometimes hard to follow all the technicalities of today’s security threats. The posters were meant to reach people by giving them a quick laugh, or at least to give them an intriguing image to look at as they walked down the hall.”
Lynch recalls the creative process for the phish poster series. “Once I hit on the idea of imposters (sheep and a wolf, kittens and an owl, raccoons and a bobcat in a mask) it was easy,” he said. “I think my personal favorite in that series was the row of pineapples, including a hand grenade with a pineapple top. I couldn’t tell you where that idea came from; it just popped into my head one day. That’s what made it such a fun project. Once in a while I’d have a new idea, and poof another poster was born.”
Dozens of organizations used the posters
Lynch said he’s happy to hear that ITS still finds his phishing posters useful. “I see them occasionally around Yale as well,” he said.
Lynch permitted universities, companies and other organizations to use his posters. How many? “I’ve lost track of that,” he said. “I gave them out to anyone who asked for them. Dozens of places, including many private companies. The last request I remember was from a large defense contractor. Every large enterprise has the same problems.”