Cyber-threats in university Clearing and how to overcome them

A Level results will be issued to thousands of students across the UK on Thursday (17th August) and 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 added, "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."

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