Educators and students are in unique learning situations, and data could be compromised—here are some tips to help address remote learning security

With the 2020-2021 school year underway, many K-12 educators, administrators, students and families are facing an indefinite period of remote learning. While there are numerous challenges arising from this new academic environment, chief among them is this unfortunate reality of our times: hackers are always looking for ways to capitalize on a crisis.

In the early days of the pandemic, as diagnoses increased, so too did coronavirus-related scams. As a senior FDA official recently outlined, “In the past months, we have seen an unprecedented proliferation of fraudulent products related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and more than ever before, the internet is being used as the primary vehicle for marketing these unproven products.”

Related content: Why cyber security experts are concerned about remote learning

These scams aren’t limited to fake testing kits or unapproved vaccines; hackers are also preying on consumers’ fear and confusion to lure them into phishing schemes and malware attacks. Within the K-12 sector specifically, the FBI recently issued an alert warning that “…cyber actors are likely to increase targeting of K-12 schools during the COVID-19 pandemic because they represent an opportunistic target as more of these institutions transition to distance learning.”

In this environment, it’s imperative that schools are cognizant of remote learning security vulnerabilities but it’s equally critical that families know how to address them. That’s why schools must educate their communities about these threats as part of their continued remote learning communication.

With the 2020-2021 school year underway, many K-12 educators, administrators, students and families are facing an indefinite period of remote learning. While there are numerous challenges arising from this new academic environment, chief among them is this unfortunate reality of our times: hackers are always looking for ways to capitalize on a crisis.

In the early days of the pandemic, as diagnoses increased, so too did coronavirus-related scams. As a senior FDA official recently outlined, “In the past months, we have seen an unprecedented proliferation of fraudulent products related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and more than ever before, the internet is being used as the primary vehicle for marketing these unproven products.”

Related content: Why cyber security experts are concerned about remote learning

These scams aren’t limited to fake testing kits or unapproved vaccines; hackers are also preying on consumers’ fear and confusion to lure them into phishing schemes and malware attacks. Within the K-12 sector specifically, the FBI recently issued an alert warning that “…cyber actors are likely to increase targeting of K-12 schools during the COVID-19 pandemic because they represent an opportunistic target as more of these institutions transition to distance learning.”

In this environment, it’s imperative that schools are cognizant of remote learning security vulnerabilities but it’s equally critical that families know how to address them. That’s why schools must educate their communities about these threats as part of their continued remote learning communication.

With that in mind, following are a few common remote learning security threats–and tips for ways to address them.

● Phishing Attacks. Research on pandemic-related security concerns found that 44 percent of respondents have noticed an increase in emails from unknown sources and calls and texts from unknown numbers. This is a common marker of phishing attacks, scams in which hackers pose as companies or trusted individuals offering a legitimate coronavirus-related service in an attempt to trick recipients into sharing credit card information or other personal data. It’s important that schools educate their communities about this threat, particularly as many younger students may be interacting with email for the first time with the shift to remote learning.

Encourage students, parents and guardians to check for grammar, punctuation and formatting errors in all communications. It’s also a good idea to review links before clicking on them and look for things like dashes, extra characters, or additional letters and numbers. Right-clicking or hovering the mouse over the email address itself can also provide clues—for example, are there multiple letters or numbers that don’t appear to belong? Finally, schools should encourage their communities to reach out directly to them, the third-party digital resource, or any other company in question to determine the authenticity of the communication if they harbor any doubts. Creating a Slack or Google page to track scams can also be helpful in preventing phishing attacks.

● Unique Passwords. It’s extremely common for students to create simple, easy-to-remember passwords and reuse them across multiple online accounts. However, if those credentials have been exposed in a previous breach, hackers can easily use them to access these accounts, all the data they contain, and potentially even infiltrate the home network from there. With a large percentage of K-12 students learning remotely, creating new digital accounts and accessing more educational resources online, the need for strong, unique passwords is more critical than ever in remote learning security efforts.

To help families guard against this threat, schools must lead by example and first encourage them to change any school-created passwords to something of the student and/or parent’s choosing. Also, any communication introducing a new digital resource should stress the importance of unique credentials to accompany it. Password manager solutions can be extremely helpful in this situation, particularly for families with multiple children participating in remote learning programs.
source: Read More, eSchool News

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