Hackers target parents at top girl's school with fake fee discounts

James Allen’s Girls’ School in Dulwich, south London - Eddie Mulholland
James Allen’s Girls’ School in Dulwich, south London - Eddie Mulholland

Parents at a top independent school for girls have been targeted by fraudsters offering fee discounts after an IT security breach, The Telegraph has learnt.

James Allen’s Girls’ School in Dulwich, south London, has alerted parents after fraudsters were able to access data about families in its junior school. Fraudsters created a “typosquatting domain”, which looked similar to a legitimate email address from the school’s finance department.

Current and prospective parents were then sent an authentic-looking email, such as fees@jagss.org.uk, advising them of a fee discount if they paid money into an account that day.

In an email to parents on Friday, the school warned parents that if they received the email and followed any of the fraudsters’ instructions they should “immediately” notify their bank.

The school has launched a review of its data protection and cyber security and referred the incident to the Information Commissioner’s Office. It has also alerted the National Cyber Security Centre and Action Fraud.

Justine Addison, director of operations at the school, told parents that they could be assured the school takes data protection and cyber security "very seriously”. She said that the fraudsters “were able to access limited data about a limited number of individuals within the junior school.”

The incident follows a spate of cyber attacks on schools.

Hackers target

Earlier this month, Bishop Luffa School and Rumboldswhyke Primary School, both state schools in Chichester, West Sussex, were targeted by hackers who reportedly demanded $100,000 (£81,760).

The hacker group took over the schools' computer systems and was said to have threatened to release personal data if the schools did not comply with the ransom.

Austen Hindman, the headteacher of Bishop Luffa said on Tuesday that the school could not afford to pay a ransom and that it would give pupils a bad example if they "gave into bullying".

He said: “The virus has shut our computer system down and the hackers are threatening to release files held on our servers.

"We use cloud-based systems to store personal data, safeguarding information and most student work. As far as we are aware, cloud-based systems are unaffected by the attack."

He added: "The files on our server will, however, contain some personal details about staff, students and parents. As a school we do not have the financial means to pay a ransom. Even if we did, it would be a poor lesson to our students if we gave in to bullying."

Wymondham College, a state boarding school in Norfolk, was also targeted by cyber criminals this month. The attack meant that teachers and pupils were unable to access computer resources. However, the school said it did not believe there had been a data breach.

Responding after the incident, a spokesman for the school said: “We can confirm that Wymondham College has encountered a sophisticated cyber-attack. We are working with the National Cyber Security Centre to ensure an appropriate response. The Department for Education is aware of the issue.”