The most recent phishing scam to be reported by the media this week involves two men who targeted hundreds of their fellow students with a £1million phishing scam. Disguised as a message from the Student Loans Company, victims were encouraged to reply with their banking details.
An important source of income for the majority of students, it’s unsurprising that so many fell for the scam. But what does this say about the digital natives? Has the highly connected world to which they’ve grown so accustomed increased their susceptibility to online fraud?
Habits are hard to break
The majority of the student population, which is now becoming known as Generation Y, often believe they are the most IT savvy generation yet. This is arguably true as this age group has evolved with technology during the last decade and as a result their ability to use it is almost innate.
However, could their superior skill have convinced them they are fool proof? Communicating with this audience on the subject of online security is no mean feat; convincing the experts to change their habits requires a sensitive approach.
In a world that is dominated by social media, the user community have become more inclined to trust strangers they meet and talk to online and equally more open about themselves. This has led the security industry to see more clearly than ever before that the human factor now poses the largest threat; technical solutions can patch a security ‘hole’, but they can’t gag the user from disclosing information to the wrong people.
Social networks harbour a wealth of data that represents millions of users’ interests, preferences and personalities. This public platform is a valuable source to anyone who wishes to exploit it, including cybercriminals. As a result, people are still falling for phone, email and post scams because they are so highly personalised.
The risks remain the same
Regardless of our age, generation and digital ability, we are all susceptible to online scams for different reasons. Generation Y is so accustomed to receiving friend requests from people they may not know in real life that they may not perceive any risk; the older generation may be unsuspecting of messages appearing to come from their bank and could respond quickly to threatening behaviour; we’re all tempted by an ‘exclusive bargain’.
The only way to protect ourselves from becoming victim to fraud is to think twice before acting upon any request, as convincing as it may sound. Organisations are increasingly clear about the methods they will use to contact their customers, so the more urgent and threatening an email or phone call is, the more likely it is to be a scam. Vigilance and caution are the best policy in a world where boundaries are fast-becoming a thing of the past.