September is here and it’s back-to-school time with millions of children gearing up to return to the classroom. However, this year, it will be a lot different in many countries. Because of the pandemic, kids will have to attend their digital classroom remotely from home. But, there are rumors about a surge in hacker interest in back to school. Parents’ concerns are valid. Researchers took a close look at data from the last 3 months to examine hacker interest in back-to-school.
Security Flaws in Online Learning Technologies
In the first half of 2020, security researchers conducted a thorough audit of Learning Management Systems that enable online learning. Some of the most popular systems use WordPress add-on software known generically as a plugin. They found security flaws in three of the most popular WordPress learning management plugins, which are LearnPress, LearnDash, and LifterLMS. This proved that the foundational technologies that enable online learning were vulnerable to hackers. Although they have patched the security flaws since you should still caution because hackers can take advantage of children going back-to-school remotely. Here are some common security threats for children going back-to-school:
Zoombombing: San Diego Unified School District recently experienced a Zoombomb incident where a person with the username “Dee Znuts” wore a red ski mask and sweatshirt during the meeting and made several hand signs.
Cyberbullying: Bullying can happen in anywhere. The use of electronic communication to send, post, or share harmful mean content about someone else. That also includes sharing personal information to make jokes or cause embarrassment. Cyberbullying often takes place in the most popular social media applications. The Cyberbullying Research Center indicates that 37% of young people between the ages of 12-17 have been bullied online. And, 30% of them have reported that it happens more than once.
Ransomware : In 2019, more than 1000 schools in the US were hit by ransomware, a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system or computer files until a sum of money is paid. Most ransomware variants encrypt files on the affected computer and make them inaccessible. After that, the hacker will demand a ransom payment to restore access. Ransomware is often delivered via an email that appears to be legitimate. It is easy to be tricked and click a link or download an attachment from those emails.
Back-to-school Security Tips
Tips For Students
- Cover the webcam. You should tell your kid to turn off or block cameras and microphones when their digital classroom is not in session. Also, be sure that no personal information is in the camera view.
- Only click on links from trusted sources. When in the remote school collaboration platform, make sure your kid only clicks on links that are shared by the host or teacher, when directed to do so. Other links from untrusted sources mostly contain viruses or worms.
- Login directly. Be aware of lookalike domains on public tools. Most fraud websites usually use weird domains. Save your kid schools’ remote school portals so they can login correctly.
- Use strong passwords. It is easier for hackers to crack short and simple passwords that most kids tend to create because it’s easy to remember. So, add complexity like symbols or more capital letters to your kid’s password to prevent that. Just remember you save that password in case both of you forget.
- Never share confidential information. In almost every situation, students should not be asked to share confidential information via online tools. And, it’s better when your kids can keep all personal information off online storage platforms.
Tips for Parents
- Call out cyberbullying. You need to explain to your kids that hurtful comments or pranks online are not OK! Also, ask your kid to talk to you if they experience or see someone else experience cyberbullying.
- Explain that devices should never go unattended. Your kids will need to understand that leaving their devices to unwanted hands can be detrimental. Hackers can login to your devices assuming your child’s identity online.
- Increase your kid awareness. Cybersecurity literacy’s an important skill set, even for young children. So, invest the time to ensure your child is aware of cybersecurity threats and precautions.
- Get anti-virus software. Make sure your children’s laptops and other devices are protected by antivirus software that prevents them from accidentally downloading malware. Make sure you pick a decent one and remember to turn on auto-update.
- Set parental controls. To make sure that your kid is protected from every online threat, you can try to set up parental controls on their devices. We recommend doing this when your kid is small. And, set up the privacy on websites to a comfort level for both of you.
- Establish a strong online perimeter. Strong boundary firewalls and internet gateways are necessary to protect school networks from cyber-attacks, unauthorized access, and malicious content.
- Check third party providers thoroughly. Teachers should ensure they vet thoroughly all third party platform providers they use.
- Monitoring the system constantly. Schools should monitor all of their systems continuously and analyze them for unusual activity that could indicate an attack.
- Invest in online cybersecurity education. Ensure that members of staff understand the risks. Conduct regular sessions for students so they are aware of the latest cybersecurity threats.
We hope these tips can make your kid’s digital classroom experience safer. And, if you have any questions, let us know in the comments!