University Students Targeted by Credential Phishing Campaign

August 12, 2021

With school starting this month, cybercriminals are back in action—targeting university students in an attempt to steal valuable personal information. In a recent attack uncovered by Abnormal, a credential phishing attacker used a legitimate email account and created false urgency to steal student credentials through a phishing website.

Summary of Attack Target

  • Platform: Google Workspace
  • Target: University Students
  • Payload: Phishing Link with Urgent Message
  • Technique: Credential Theft

About the Credential Phishing Attack

University credential phishing email 1024x685

The subject line displays a sense of urgency, with keywords including important and multiple exclamation marks. The body of the message explains that the recipient needs to update their account due to recent security incidents, and provides a link to re-secure the account. As an added threat, the text states that the account will be locked if not verified within 48 hours.

While there are some significant grammatical errors that may make a conscientious student question the legitimacy of the email, they are not so obvious that all students would recognize them. Furthermore, students in a hurry may only skim the body of the email before clicking the link to verify, and those new students who are eager to keep account access may submit their information without verifying the authenticity of the email.

Within the email, a dummy link with a variation of a address is provided, which redirects the recipient to the phishing page. In this particular attack, that redirect link was removed, and students who click on it are taken here.

University credential phishing website error 1024x633

However, those students who instead clicked on the “Click” or “URL” links in the body of the email were taken to the actual phishing website shown here.

University credential phishing payload 1024x642

This phishing page asks for not only the full name and email address of the student, but also their student ID number and their email password. Once the cybercriminal has this information, they would be able to access multiple other university services, and could potentially uncover additional personal information like addresses, financial information, and social security numbers.

Why It Bypassed Existing Security Infrastructure

Many security tools on the market are not equipped to identify suspicious behavior from a legitimate organization using legitimate email addresses. Abnormal Security prevented this attack by recognizing the specific language and content of the email, and detecting the likely compromise of the sender’s email address.

Specific signals that Abnormal noticed were the urgent language commonly observed in phishing attacks, the detection of a link that redirects the recipient to a different webpage, and the low frequency of sending behavior between the sender and recipients.

University credential phishing analysis 1024x648

In this case, Abnormal was able to detect the email within seconds and remove it from customer inboxes, ensuring that no Abnormal customer entered their credentials into the malicious website. Without this added layer of security, recipients would’ve been put at risk, and cybercriminals may have gained access to entire systems through the stolen credentials. That said, it should be noted that this exact email, as well similar attacks, may have been received by universities that do not use Abnormal Security.

While this attack was unique to a specific university and spoofed its own email domain, schools everywhere should be aware of this tactic and seek to prevent it, particularly as students return this August.

Interested in seeing how Abnormal can prevent credential phishing at your organization? See the product in action by requesting a demo.


Prevent the Attacks That Matter Most

Get the Latest Email Security Insights

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates on the latest attacks and new trends in the email threat landscape.

Demo 2x 1

See the Abnormal Solution to the Email Security Problem

Protect your organization from the attacks that matter most with Abnormal Integrated Cloud Email Security.

Related Posts

B 09 29 22 CISO Cybersecurity Awareness Month
October is here, which means Cybersecurity Awareness Month is officially in full swing! These five tips can help security leaders take full advantage of the month.
Read More
B Email Security Challenges Blog 09 26 22
Understanding common email security challenges caused by your legacy technology will help you determine the best solution to improve your security posture.
Read More
B 5 Crucial Tips
Retailers are a popular target for threat actors due to their wealth of customer data and availability of funds. Here are 5 cybersecurity tips to help retailers reduce their risk of attack.
Read More
B 3 Essential Elements
Legacy approaches to managing unwanted mail are neither practical nor scalable. Learn the 3 essential elements of modern, effective graymail management.
Read More
B Back to School
Discover how threat group Chiffon Herring leverages impersonation and spoofed email addresses to divert paychecks to mule accounts.
Read More
B 09 06 22 Rearchitecting a System Blog
We recently shared a look at how the Abnormal engineering team overhauled our Unwanted Mail service architecture to accommodate our rapid growth. Today, we’re diving into how the team migrated traffic to the new architecture—with zero downtime.
Read More
B Industry Leading CIS Os
Stay up to date on the latest cybersecurity trends, industry news, and best practices by following these 12 innovative and influential thought leaders on social media.
Read More
B Podcast Engineering 11 08 24 22
In episode 11 of Abnormal Engineering Stories, David Hagar, Director of Engineering and Abnormal Head of UK Engineering, continues his conversation with Zehan Wang, co-founder of Magic Pony.
Read More
B Overhauled Architecture Blog 08 29 22
As our customer base has expanded, so has the volume of emails our system processes. Here’s how we overcame scaling challenges with one service in particular.
Read More