How to Reduce Risks of Cybersecurity Threats in Virtual Learning

How to Reduce Risks of Cybersecurity Threats in Virtual Learning

As the 2020 academic year approached and COVID-19 continued to linger across the U.S., schools around the country scrambled to develop virtual learning plans adhering to mandated safety precautions. A socially-distanced school year forced districts to implement remote, online learning or hybrid models to ensure student and faculty safety. However, the rushed implementation and continued uncertainty left many plans flawed and extremely vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks.

According to data from the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center, there have been 855 publicly reported cyber incidents in U.S. school districts since 2016 — 348 of those occurring in 2019 alone. Fast-forward to June 2020 where Microsoft Security Intelligence found that 61 percent of nearly 7.7 million enterprise malware encounters reported in the past month came from those in the education sector, making it the most affected industry.

What Cybersecurity Threats Does the Education Sector Face?

The swift shift to online learning resulted in teachers and students using less-secure IT environments. While some school districts are able to provide technology such as laptops with enhanced security, others are not as fortunate. This left many to use their own devices and internet connection. In such cases, firewall protection and cloud systems vary by household which compromises the effectiveness of any security measures in place and expands the attack surface.

In addition, educators were quickly finding online tools to help bridge the gap for virtual schooling, but often, these tools were poorly protected for privacy and risked being infected with malware. For example, video conference app, Zoom, used by many districts to connect teachers to students, was subject to “Zoombombing” — a term referencing when an unauthorized user enters Zoom calls through credentials found online and disrupts with inappropriate content or collects sensitive information reported EducationDrive

Lastly, the most common form of cyber attacks — phishing scams — has easily made its way into education. Over 90% of cyber crime is initiated through a phishing attempt and the pandemic has made it even easier for cyber criminals to prey on unsuspecting targets like educators.

How Can You Build A Front Line for Protection?

It’s important for school districts to implement a framework for security as soon as possible, even if remote work has already begun. A solid plan and strong communication with parents/students can go a long way in preventing future attacks. Here are 5 ways to get started today (courtesy of Cybersecurity Magazine):

Frontier Technologies is committed to protecting the future of learning through innovative cyber security measures developed specifically for the needs of education. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

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