Schools and Kindergartens: A New Target For Hackers

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Cybersecurity criminals have always kept their list of targets wide and diverse. Yet, they recently started focusing on schools and kindergartens as their primary target. Recent data shows that 57% of the latest ransomware incidents involved K-12 students. It shows that cybersecurity awareness and training are not well implemented in the schooling system.

Remote learning is one of the reasons why it’s more important than ever to talk about cybersecurity.


The Security Challenges of Remote Learning

The current global pandemic has changed the way schools and educational facilities operate. Most classes are now taking place online, which exposes children to more cybersecurity risks daily. Remote learning seems like the perfect solution for students during a global pandemic. Yet, it creates more room for hackers to carry out malicious attacks and steal personal data. The risk has become so high that the U.S. government issued a statement to warn schools and kindergartens of the potential cybersecurity threats.

The statement explains how criminals are now targeting distance-learning programs. This shows how hackers have expanded their reach from colleges and universities to lower grade educational facilities. This has exposed way more students to potential security risks. Their most common approach in this field is the ransomware attack method. It is also the most profitable option on their end.

Teachers Can’t Carry Out Online Classes

Most simply put, during a ransomware attack, hackers breach the security system of a device or a network of devices to encrypt their content. They can also restrict access by locking users out of the network. Once they take over the targeted network, they request a certain amount of money to be paid as ransom. Upon making the payment, the user then gains access to the network. However, this doesn’t always happen. Hackers rarely carry out their end of the deal.

Besides ransomware attacks, schools and kindergartens are often the targets of DDoS attacks. They prevent teachers from carrying out online classes on remote platforms. During a DDoS attack, hackers use multiple devices or networks of devices to overwhelm servers and online platforms. Thus, they cause them to crash. During the crash, students can’t take part in remote learning, and their personal data and online accounts are put at risk as well.

How to Respond to Potential Security Threats

Most classes are taking place online. Hackers have shifted from corporations to kindergartens and schools that seem to be the easiest prey for these attacks. The Wall Street Journal reported a recent event at the Las Vegas’ Clark County School District where students’ private data was leaked after the school refused to pay the ransom. This goes to show that hackers are more than serious in their intent to leak personal data.

This whole situation with the global pandemic is not close to an end. Students will have to stick to remote learning for at least the next six months or even further. With no end to remote learning, the cybersecurity risk will remain one of the number one problems for students and teachers around the world. Thus, it is crucial to learn how to respond to potential security threats such as ransomware and DDoS attacks.

On top of securing networks and devices with proper antivirus tools, both teachers and students should use virtual private networks during remote learning practices. It is clear that children of this age are not aware of online security risks, let alone the security measures. That is why teachers and educators should encourage parents to take action. Also, don’t forget to install the right security tools on their children’s devices.

The Unforeseeable Future

With no clear end to the pandemic, we will continue the remote working/learning trend in 2021. Hopefully, educational facilities will take online security threats more seriously. It’s essential to have better security measures and raise awareness of VPN services and similar security tools.

It’s important to be aware of these threats and protect ourselves. One of the best ways to ensure safety is to educate kids about various cyber threats. Only a mutual effort by students and teachers can prevent the consequences of common cybersecurity attacks.