Remote learning and cyber security risks for the education sector

With physical buildings closed for many schools, colleges and universities during the pandemic. Most educational institutes have resorted to using online technology to remotely manage student learning experience while the coronavirus crisis unravels.

In some cases, the shift from physical to remote education was a rapid change happening virtually overnight. Larger universities and colleges do usually have an infrastructure in place to facilitate remote learning. However, lack of time to implement new changes and provide staff members the adequate training to mitigate cyber challenges while using new tech could result in cyber breaches for the education sector.

For schools, the shortage of time to prepare for the shift to remote learning meant an absence in vetting potential cyber risks. Besides many educational institutes do not have financial capacity to overhaul their existing technological infrastructure in the wake of an unforeseen and unprecedented situation. Subsequently, many education providers may turn towards readily available tooling which can cause a privacy infringement through user tracking or in severe cases device security is compromised through malware.

Cybercriminals are innovating and implementing new techniques to target remote networks. Their popular methods for capitalising on the pandemic crisis are ransomware, phishing and other elaborate social engineering campaigns.

Educational institutes can implement the following tips to enhance cyber security:

  • Phishing Scams – Aim to counter phishing attacks through cyber training and increasing general cyber awareness among tech users. Update institutional email security and ensure users have all end points secured to prevent exploits.
  • Limit access to sensitive data – Cybercriminals are interested in personal data belonging to teachers, staff, students and alumni. Limit user data access to all that is necessarily required for their work. Enable two-factor authentication to support system security.
  • Enhance remote access security – An unsecure remote access enables hackers to take control of the network. A virtual private network (VPN) offers security by allowing protection of data that flows in and out of the connection through encryption. Deploy a VPN that offers strong remote access.
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