In mid-July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated recommendations for the return to school for fall 2020. These recommendations considered the persistent threat of COVID-19 and an understanding that students can contribute to the virus’s transmission, counter to earlier reports. The CDC also published a prioritized list of strategies using either virtual or in-person classroom environments, or some combination of the two.
As one would expect, schools that stick with solely virtual classes are at lowest risk for COVID outbreaks. Hybrid models — which combine virtual classes with varying levels of in-person learning — sit somewhere in the middle. The highest-risk designation, of course, goes to in-person-only classroom strategies.
But while virtual classes should prevent COVID transmission, they’re not without risk.
Many already are considering the problems of isolating school-aged children and transferring more oversight to parents during the workday. Less talked about — but certainly important — is the consideration of cybersecurity, which affects the stratification of risk almost inversely to the potential spread of COVID-19.
That is, the more “virtual” the education, the higher the cybersecurity risk.
We’ve previously explained how the educational system is a growing target for cyber crime. Now, hackers are setting their sights on the upcoming back-to-school season.
Michael Tran Duff, chief privacy officer and chief information security officer at Stanford University, told a virtual-event audience that “we are seeing a dramatic increase in phishing; this is fully expected, we knew it would happen with any major calamity,” according to The Hill.
Numerous educators are reporting that not only are attack volumes increasing, but their success rate is rising. As hackers likely hoped, this suggests students in virtual classrooms are a vulnerable population.
Back-To-School Cybersecurity Tips
COVID-19 has proven to be one of the most disruptive events in U.S. history. So it’s no surprise that educational institutions were caught unprepared to deal with cybercriminal exploitation of online learning.
Now, however, schools are faced with the responsibility of fighting back against cyber attackers. In addition to long-overdue improvements in security protocols, schools will need to deploy cybersecurity awareness and education programs that will arm students with the skills they need to stay safe.
Until you have access to those programs, here are a few basic tips that will help you stay safe online:
- Don’t give out personal information online, either in response to an email or on social media. Legitimate requests for this kind of information won’t come to you through these channels.
- Don’t download attachments from senders or posters you don’t know.
- Don’t use the same password on multiple applications. Also, mind the anatomy of a strong password, including ensuring your passwords are a combination of letters, numbers, and characters that are difficult to guess.
- Never post a link to an online class on social media. This is one way that criminals have found their way into classes.
- Use two-factor authentication where it is available. This adds an extra layer of security to keep hackers out.
Lunarline helps organizations in the private and public sectors alike enhance their security through advances in technologies, procedures and education. To learn how we can help you, contact us online today.