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Persistent smishing attempts target Chinese exchange students

Colleges and universities should be alert to social engineering attacks conducted through SMS, known as smishing, which are targeting Chinese exchange students within the UK.

The threat actors, identified as RedZei, have specifically targeted Chinese exchange students studying within the UK by identifying and then researching potential victims and creating highly specific and well-tailored SMS messages similar to a spear phishing campaign.

This highly detailed research allows the threat actor(s) to craft an SMS with details relevant to the victim or common issues frequently encountered by foreign exchange students.

This current campaign is mimicking NHS messages by alerting victims of misused NHS numbers or DHL delivery updates (DHL recently topped a report that highlighted the brands which were most frequently imitated by criminals in their attempts to steal individuals’ personal information or payment credentials. It accounted for 22% of worldwide phishing attacks).

Partnered with this, there has been impersonation of Chinese enterprises, again tailoring the attack to this specific victim group.

Combatting this type of attack via SMS can be difficult if the threat group maintains persistent efforts, as simply changing sim card or phone numbers will circumvent the only defence a user can implement (blocking the phone number).

Mobile devices are being targeted more often due to their access to banking information and work material.

SMS-based attacks are a growing attack vector which organisations will likely encounter more frequently, either as targets themselves or being reported by outside sources. It's imperative that the education sector is aware of this threat to their Chinese students.



Report all Fraud and Cybercrime to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or online. Forward suspicious emails to Report SMS scams by forwarding the original message to 7726 (spells SPAM on the keypad).



The contents of blog posts on this website are provided for general information only and are not intended to replace specific professional advice relevant to your situation. The intention of East Midlands Cyber Resilience Centre (EMCRC) is to encourage cyber resilience by raising issues and disseminating information on the experiences and initiatives of others. Articles on the website cannot by their nature be comprehensive and may not reflect most recent legislation, practice, or application to your circumstances. EMCRC provides affordable services and Trusted Partners if you need specific support. For specific questions please contact us by email.


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