Digital Education: The Cyber Risks of the Online Classroom

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Digital Education: The Cyber Risks of the Online Classroom


The ring of the school bell, the noise of the children in the classrooms, the honking of the buses. They came to a halt when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Schools were closed down and forced to go online. 


The lockdown was expected to be lifted in a few days. But it started to stretch for weeks. To ensure the continuity of classes, schools roped in the online platforms. Google Meet, Zoom, Moodle, and even WhatsApp - each became an online classroom.


Though it helped the students in their education, it has become one of the most targeted areas of cyberattacks. According to the Microsoft report on malware encounters on enterprises, the education industry was the target 64% of the time. It is due to their large user base and the fragile digital fence of these platforms. 


Let us look into the types of cyber risks of online classrooms, their reasons, and how to defend or avoid them.

Types of Cyber Risks of Online Classrooms


  1. Adware
  2. Phishing
  3. DDoS Attacks
  4. Ransomware
  5. Data breaches and other issues


  1. Adware

Does your system pop up many irrelevant, often irritating advertisements? Then it must have become a victim of adware.


Adware is malware that generates automatic ads. It shows them to the user to earn revenues for its creators. Adware prevails not only in computers but also recently in mobiles. It targets youths for the long-term market. 


They enter through the free software you download and start displaying ads. It drains the data and power of the device. Many ads are a disturbance during your studies and must be removed.



How to avoid adware in an online classroom?

Adware enters into devices through the fragile ad monitoring gateway. It's quite hard to remove adware once they are entered. It's best to block their entry even before they infect the device. The easiest way to do it is by using residential proxies from Blazing SEO


Residential proxies use a special program to check the source and type of ads. They make users visit connect individually, not from data centers. Thus, residential proxies verify ads to block malicious ads to prevent adware. 


Always choose ethically sourced residential proxies, else adware will sustain. 


Other steps to avoid adware are:


  • Avoid pirated software
  • Avoid clickbait ads and pop-ups
  • Use a non-administrator account
  • Use apt adware remover tool
  • Update security patches frequently


2. Phishing

Phishing is the most reported cyberattack during online classes. It is a tactic used to steal sensitive data like library passwords by cyberattackers.


Its mode of operation is quite interesting. It steals data by exploiting our carelessness in checking the site. 


They create fake web pages like real websites with credentials columns. People fill them with details, giving the hackers the much-needed data. The hackers then use these credentials to log into the real account to use it for their benefit.


How to avoid phishing attacks?


Avoid phishing by checking the website link received only from known persons. Also, check the spelling of such addresses before clicking. 


Other steps to avoid phishing are:


  • Have a general awareness about phishing
  • Keep strong passwords
  • Use anti-spyware software
  • Update security patches

3. DDoS Attacks

DDoS Attacks refer to Distributed Denial of Service attacks. It is a common method of cyberattack. Here the cybercriminals saturate a website’s server with fake or unnecessary traffic. Thus, they deny the services to their original traffic - called legitimate packets. 


Cyberattackers use DDoS on servers with insecure networks, improper security patch updates. Unhealthy digital practices of people like having a weak password increase the vulnerabilities.


They leverage these loopholes to steal the data of the people using the server. Attacks like Zoom bombing deviate your concentration from studies.


DDoS attacks target e-learning platforms more. These are on the rise by 550% in 2020 compared to 2019.


How to avoid DDoS attacks in an online classroom?


  • Cut the attacker's exposure to the site to stop further attacks
  • Rate limiting to check the doubtful rise in traffic
  • Optimize the server capacity
  • Have a Denial of Service response plan
  • Conduct frequent vulnerability assessments
  • Using cloud-based service providers


4. Ransomware

Remember the WannaCry Ransomware that shook Silicon Valley and the World in 2017?

Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts and locks the device it attacks and demands a ransom to decrypt it. 


It threatens to wipe the files and demands a ransom. It usually gives a deadline to settle the ransom. Beyond the deadline, the ransom rises. In the worst case, it will delete all the files.

These attacks were a concern in the learning sector. Research papers, online books, saved class notes may be deleted.


Even The FBI warned of rising ransomware attacks targeting K-12 schools. So all educational institutions, be wary of these risks. As worrying as it is, ransomware attacks are avoidable by deploying a few strategies.


How to avoid ransomware attacks in an online classroom?


  • Do not open links embedded in the emails from unknown senders
  • Use VPN in public Wi-Fi Networks
  • Deploy an anti-ransomware software
  • Have limited access to shared networks
  • Backup all necessary data frequently using the 3:2:1 rule


5. Data Breaches and Other Issues in an Online Classroom

Data is the new oil, said a British mathematician. Yes indeed. Like time, data proves to be a valuable resource for various organizations to mint money.


Data breaches in the e-learning platform are on the rise because of their vulnerabilities and a lack of expertise. They attack with an element of surprise attacks. 


Online classrooms are targeted for critical data like school children’s picture, their email, phone number, and their IP Addresses. Then they are bombarded with ads or malicious emails. Such data breaches are the gateway for further cyberattacks.


How to avoid data breaches in an online classroom?


  • Physically securing device from outsiders
  • Not sharing your device
  • Using a strong password to escape brute force attacks
  • Avoiding public Wi-Fi
  • Carefully checking the third-party apps that seek sensitive accesses

Wrapping Up

We have seen the various types of cyber risks in digital education through the online classroom. All such threats exist in a way or another by human errors. It ranges from setting up a weak password to looking upon a bug while developing software. 


The cyber risks that follow these human errors are riskier than the conventional risks. This is because of their flexibility and complexity to detect, diagnose, and dismantle them.


The online classroom is beneficial in various ways. But the cyber risks leave its future in question. We should have robust security mechanisms to overcome cyber risks. Research worldwide is ongoing for the same. Let's hope the days of secure data are not far.


By Kullabs

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