POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A close call for a Polk State College student highlights the unique cyber attack vulnerabilities college students face as they return to campus for another semester.
“Hey I think I’m being scammed, what do I do?”
That is the question a student asked Polk State College Vice President for Institutional Technology and Risk Management Bob Stack this week.
He said she received an email on her school account offering a $400 a week dog-sitting job. She responded and then the person sent her two $2,500 checks in the mail.
“We’ll just start sending you names and then you can send them the $400 so they can pet-sit other clients that we have,” Stack said the schemers told the student. “That’s when the student reached out to us and said I think I’m being scammed.”
Stack says the college’s cyber-security systems block over 95% of nefarious emails students, faculty and staff receive. But some will always find their ways through, he said.
“Back when I first started, a single firewall was all we needed. Today these bad actors are extremely intelligent. Their whole game in life is to take away from you that which you have,” he said.
Another threat to college campuses: phishing.
“Instead of fishing for fish, they’re phishing for data,” said Trafenia Salzman, CEO of Sittadel, a Lakeland-based cybersecurity firm.
Salzman said college campus members, not to mention business employees and personal email users, need to be careful about the links they receive. A hacker can gain access to a person’s computer if they click on a fraudulent link.
“A lot of times they’ll stay monitoring that email. They’ll wait for the opportune time whether that’s like a wire being sent, they’ll change the wire numbers. They’ll gain usernames or passwords,” said Salzman.
Hackers could potentially access students’ financial aid information, which could include social security and addresses.
“Depending on the nature of the attack, it could be extremely detrimental to the college operations,” said Stack.
As young people, college students have fresh banking and credit identities, which makes them prime for theft.
A few tips to avoid falling victim to a phishing scheme include checking for spelling and/or grammar errors.
Sometimes, a person could appear to be using the email address of someone the recipient knows, known as “spoofing.” Take note if the email does not sound like the person from whom it appears to have originated.
“If you receive emails with links, just hover over them and that can tell you where that link is being sent to,” said Salzman.
“Just getting it from a random person, you want to be careful with what kinds of links you open because you can most definitely get a virus so at that point it’s game over,” said Aalayah Jones, president of the Student Government Association on Polk State College’s Lakeland campus.
Polk State College administrators advise people to log out of their devices when they are left unattended.