Education Sector is More Likely to Visit Malicious Websites

Users in the education sector are more likely to visit compromised websites than other industries.

According to a new “threat galaxy” from Websense Security Labs, users in the education sector are three times as likely to visit websites on topics such as cultural and religious institutions, political organizations, supplements and unregulated compounds—all of which are known dwellings for malicious ads, scammers and fraud.

“Clearly this behavior also affects the threats they are impacted by and the threat actors that target these groups,” the firm said. Specifically, users in the education sector are 20 times more likely to be impacted by black hat SEO than any other sector, twice as likely to visit malicious websites, and twice as likely to be impacted by spyware and adware.

“Our research is a wake-up call to businesses in the education industry,” said Carl Leonard, principal security analyst at Raytheon | Websense, in an emailed comment. “There appears to be a real lack of security awareness amongst students and staff in the education sector. As a result, these users are not only twice as likely to visit compromised or malicious websites as users in any other sector, but also twice as likely to be impacted by spyware and adware by visiting unsafe software download sites. Users are also 20 times more likely to encounter black hat SEO which, given the nature of browsing, makes it easy for the attacker to go down the kill chain and facilitate a quick financial return.

Another interesting point to note from the sample set study is that although users from the education sector display more risky behavior in terms of visiting compromised websites, some threats are less likely to descend further down the attack kill chain for these users.

For instance, the financial services sector sees 400 percent more attacks using Geodo than other industries see. On the other hand, users in the education sector are hardly ever impacted by Geodo.

Overall, the research shows that end user education in this case is critical.

“The business risk of this concerning lack of security education is huge,” Leonard said. “Users are opening up their schools, departments and companies to all manner of viruses, malware and attacks by consistently accessing dangerous websites putting their valuable assets at risk. The important lesson for organizations in the education sector is to keep a close eye on threats affecting other businesses in the industry, to constantly be on the lookout for indications of compromise, and to regularly educate their users and employees on the dangers of accessing sites that aren’t safe.”  ?

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