Security experts at Jisc are backing government advice issued today that universities should warn their students about the dangers of cyber crime.
Jisc data shows that, at the beginning of each term – and particularly at the start of the new academic year – there is a rise in cyber attacks targeting students.
Scammers typically use phishing emails to trick recipients into giving away credentials and bank account details so their newly deposited loans can be stolen.
This week, however, HMRC has issued a statement warning about tax fraud and has written to higher education providers asking them to offer advice to students about how to spot a scam.
The government says:
"With universities taking a blended approach to online and face-to-face tuition this year, and an increase in remote working due to the pandemic, students could be left particularly exposed to the work of fraudsters.
“Freshers might also be more vulnerable to these types of scams due to their limited experience of the tax system.
“In August this year HMRC received reports from the public of more than 74,800 scam emails, text messages and phone calls. Nearly 41,300 of these specifically offered bogus tax rebates.
“Thousands of these scams were targeted at students and the criminals involved appear to have obtained their personal university email addresses by unlawful means. These scams often offer fake tax refunds or help with claiming COVID-related financial support.
“Phishing email messages can also provide a gateway for criminals. Students who provide personal details in response can end up inadvertently giving access to important accounts, like email or online banking, leaving scammers free to commit fraud and steal their money.”
The head of Jisc’s security operations centre, Dr John Chapman, says:
“Cyber criminals are quick to respond to changes in the social or economic environment, and to take advantage of natural disasters. The pandemic is no exception and we have noticed a trend in phishing emails linked to coronavirus, which play on people’s fears.
“While students have grown up using tablets and smart phones, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are aware of how criminals use technology for nefarious purposes.
“This is why we encourage all colleges and universities to provide mandatory security awareness training for all students - and staff.”