Combating Phishing Attacks in Colleges

Phishing scams are the Internet schemes that pose as some legitimate source towards tricking people into submitting personal, confidential information. These scams are not uncommon in the technology-driven world of the current era. In addition to impacting the organizations of the world, the phishing attacks are most likely to hamper the day-to-day activities of several leading colleges & universities around the world. In a recent study, it was revealed that most colleges & universities are prone to phishing attacks.

When it comes to phishing attacks, the hackers are not in the habit of doing any discrimination. They cast their activities as wide as the Internet exists. This includes colleges & students as well. It is quite logical to understand the fact that the generation that has grown up thriving on technology & its applications must have quite tech-savvy to avoid falling prey to the hazardous phishing attacks. However, this has not stopped the potential attackers in carrying out target phishing attempts on college campuses across the world.

Unique characteristics of the college students have made them immensely vulnerable to the potential phishing attacks out there. Many students are out on their own for the first time and might not have any relevant experience with how government agencies, banking institutions, employers, and others correspond with customers. Therefore, an email that appears official enough to them is an easy trap to get ample information out of them.

In addition to this, more than any other group of individuals, college students are always in dire need of money. Therefore, emails that sometimes offer quick cash or any other form of monetary benefit in exchange for some vital information can be highly tempting for the young hearts. This is the reason why most of the phishing attacks are focused on college students or campuses offering lucrative scholarship programs, credit card debt consolidation, student loan compensation, or “high-paying” jobs in exchange for vital information.

In a common example of a potential phishing attack on college students is the official-looking email that claims to be from some government agency or a non-profit organization offering special student grants & scholarships for paying off the tuition fees. Such emails usually ask the recipient to click on a particular link. This would redirect them to some landing page in which the candidates are asked to provide the correct bank account details & other account-related information for receiving the desired funding.

The pervasive use of the social media platforms by the college students also makes them the main target for various phishing attempts. The simplest version of a social media scam is through sending an email that claims that the social media account of the recipient has been canceled. This message would provide a proper link to reactive the social media account. However, the link is usually used for installing some kind of malware or obtaining personal information.

Even after several warnings to not trust unauthorized or suspicious emails, researchers have confirmed that around 1/3rd of the college students fall prey to the different kinds of phishing scams every now & then. The trend that has changed in the recent times is that the attacks nowadays seem to be more directed. Though these attacks are becoming more prevalent in the recent times, it is high time that educational institutions make sure that the college students are safe from the potential phishing attacks out there. This should begin with making them aware of the possible attacks and how to prevent themselves from the same.

  • Fraudulent Emails Might Appear Official: In the previous times, certain typos & common spelling mistakes used to indicate the email from being a fake one. However, email phishing today is more like the real deal.At Alfred University, a recent phishing scam featured an email that was assumed to have been sent over by the President of the university asking one of the members from the executive team to initiate some form of payment. At other times, there have been attempts that have even made use of the official logos & color scheme of the university.An expert in the field of phishing attacks & its study claimed that hackers are nowadays looking forward to productive branding, messaging, and how individuals interact with each other. Experts also reported that hackers have gained access to the email accounts of the individuals at the universities with whom you would regularly be working like vendors. Through such a mechanism, the hackers have sent links to the email accounts of the students or the employees with respect to invoices or other monetary benefits.
  • Some Phishing Attacks are Tailored for College Students: It is not always that only faculty of the colleges or universities is at the target of the hackers. Earlier this year, the college students at the prestigious Dartmouth College also received a fake email that asked for login credentials. The email appeared as if it was from the President of the university.Another famous phishing attack that was reported by several news reports made the college students its prey by prompting the students who were looking for lucrative postgraduate job opportunities. Such emails contained fake job opportunities and then asked for personal information including bank account details.At the famous Louisiana State University, the college students are receiving phishing attack emails from the individuals that are meant to help them out in case of a phishing attack –the IT help desk. In such emails, the college students were asked to verify the respective account details by following a proper link.
  • Tax Time is the Peak Time for the Potential Hackers: In addition to knowing about the possible phishing ways, the students should also be aware of the famous times for the possible phishing attacks to happen. As it turns out, the experts believe that the tax time is the ideal time for a potential phishing scam to occur leading to the final deadline for the IRS tax payment.One such famous phishing scam has been the W-2 Scam –usually target the payroll & HR departments of organizations –especially in the higher education, asking for the employee & student’s list.

Steps to Prevent the Potential Phishing Attacks

Students studying in the library to prepare for the upcoming midterms.


If you are a college student, there are higher chances that you might receive proper tips & warnings on preventing yourself from being a victim of the common phishing attacks. If an email appears suspicious, here are some ways to identify a phishing scam and stay safe from the same:

  • Do not share your passwords with anyone
  • Do not make the mistake of sending over sensitive information like bank account details or SSN through some text message or unencrypted emails
  • Never enter your password or other vital information in some spreadsheet, an unknown website, or a text message
  • Financial departments of your college or university will contact you through means of secure messaging. Through regular emails, institutions are known to only notify the students about the waiting, unread messages in some secure system.
  • Never reply to suspicious emails. You must stay away from emails that ask you to provide the login credentials, threaten to suspend some service or account without any response, keep notifying you of some virus, ask you to click on an additional link, and so more
  • Do not open or reply to suspicious, phishing emails
  • Reliable educational institutions or service providers will never ask for your confidential information through insecure means of emails
  • Do not click on any links, images, or buttons as available in the phishing emails, especially those claiming “unsubscribe” or “remove from the mailing list”.

By being aware of the potential phishing attacks, the young students can remain safe from the same. For more information on phishing attacks, reach out to DuoCircle!

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