A Level results will be issued to thousands of students across the UK on Thursday 17 August. For many, this is a time of celebration as they take up offers for the university or college of their choice. However, for those who have not received the results they need it can be a stressful time as they enter Clearing, and turn to online search to secure a university or college place to continue their studies.
Cybercriminals are wise to this forthcoming uptick in web traffic, and have been creating higher education phishing sites to trick stressed students into clicking on malware-laden links. This is not a new scam, and is evidence that cybercriminals are diversifying to rework banking, online shopping and other phishing scams. Today security researchers at Forcepoint are now warning prospective students across the UK and internationally to beware of these scams.
Carl Leonard, principal security analyst at Forcepoint said: “This activity could come from one-off individual criminal elements speculating for financial gain or as part of an organised gang spreading malware kits or adding to botnets. Using search analytics criminals can map likely human reactions and rework tried and tested social engineering scams to target vulnerable individuals. Broadly, if a university or college offer appears too good to be true, it probably is.”
“University students will continue to be targeted by cyber criminals at relevant times of the year. The scammers will continue to setup fraudulent websites and send convincing emails demanding interaction in order to manipulate a student’s behaviour when they are under the most time pressure.”
As a way of preventing these cyber scams, Forcepoint advises students searching for university and college courses for the autumn to do the following:
- Type in the URL rather than clicking on links in email or in online adverts
- Use reputable search engines
- Be aware of lure lines such as “discounted course fees,” “multiple course places available now,” or the usage of highly respected educational establishment names in promotions
- Keep internet security up to date on PCs and mobiles
- Begin your Clearing search via the UCAS website, which contains official links and the latest up-to-date places
- Reach out to the university or colleges admin secretary office if you have doubts as to the legitimacy of a fee or offer
Wayne Gaish, IT Strategic Development Manager, Petroc said: “Petroc takes cyber security very seriously and in particular for our learners at this crucial time of year. The guidance provided by Forcepoint will help promote a better understanding for our learners in today’s digital world.”
Frank Jeffs, post-graduate researcher and former Head of Advertising at Middlesex University said:
“Scams of this nature have the potential to trick stressed UK-based students, but could also catch out international students who are seeking courses in the UK. In my experience, scammers use well-known university names such as Oxford or Cambridge and create fake institutions which sound very similar. Designed to look realistic and offering qualifications at a low price or attempting to capture personal information, this social engineering trick could easily catch out international studients or people who might not have the local knowledge of the official educational establishment names. Always go via the UCAS website or type in the URL of the university or college you are interested in.”