Hackers are on the prowl and online classes have become their new target. Teachers and students who interact online are in danger of becoming the victims of cyber criminals.
Roberto Martínez, senior security analyst at Kaspersky for Latin America, recommends that schools make an inventory of threats to their networks so they really understand what kinds of dangers they could be exposed to.
“You have to understand that the shift to online classes is attracting the attention of cyber criminals, who see schools as targets to attack,” says the expert in an interview for Tec Review.
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The online teaching platforms of educational institutions can be affected by a denial-of-service attack, which aims to collapse the system. This happens when hackers make an excessive number of connection requests.
“Resources are consumed in such a way that authentic connections are prevented. When someone wants to connect to the server, it’s overloaded, which means there’s no way for students or teachers to connect,” explains Martínez.
What’s more, applications such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, if not properly protected, could also allow unauthorized third parties to gatecrash sessions, as happened in the online class of a school in Brookfield, Kansas City, when a masked individual pointed a gun at the camera.
“If you want to download these applications and search for them on Google, you should know that cyber criminals pay for their ads to appear at the top of the results. Teachers or students sometimes think they’re downloading the official version but in reality, it’s a modified version that may contain malware which can take control of the webcam and keyboard,” warns the security analyst.
That’s why you should always make sure you download from the official source, as well as adding extra layers of security to these videoconferencing tools.
“As far as possible, use two-factor authentication. This means that it is no longer enough to login with just a username and password. You also need a token like the one you get from the bank,” says Martínez.
The Kaspersky executive says it is important to protect computer privacy with tools that not only protect you against viruses but also from being redirected to malicious sites pretending to be educational institutions.
“You should also install password managers. These are programs that automatically generate long passwords, which are harder to guess, without you having to memorize them. The only thing you need to remember is the access code to that tool,” says Martínez.
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Beware the public internet
In addition to institutional educational platforms, many teachers use social media to interact with their students. However, this is not a good idea.
“If the school already has a platform, you should stick to it. If not, the privacy of your students may be compromised. A social network is definitely not the best way to interact from an educational standpoint,” says Martínez.
It is crucial to clarify that the wireless networks of educational institutions should be thought of as public networks, which are therefore unsecured networks. So, Martínez suggests the following when students start going back to school:
“It’s best to use a virtual private network application which protects the information traveling across the network. If someone (a hacker) is capturing traffic, they cannot see the data sent.”
Although free versions of these cyber security tools can be found online, Martínez suggests more robust options, which come with a price.
“A password manager will set you back around 140 pesos a year, while an antivirus license for up to three devices costs upwards of 400 pesos a year. With that, you can protect a tablet, a smartphone, and a computer for the same amount,” he concludes.