Remote learning became the norm in the wake of COVID. Issuing laptops or iPads to students was already a common practice, but it became an education necessity rather than an enhancer. With students spending more time on their laptops and more lectures occurring virtually, the education sector needs to adapt and manage cyber risks. Ransom attacks can bring education to a halt, and weak cybersecurity compromises student safety.

Cyber criminals target education venues for several reasons. Educational institutions have to evaluate their risks to determine their greatest cyber vulnerabilities. The following are the most prevalent cyber threats in education:

  1. Students and educators. A successful malware or ransomware attack relies on the gullibility of the target. Students and educators alike may click links in an email, not realizing they unleashed a malicious program into the school network. Students that connect their school devices to their home network can put their households at risk, too. Once a hacker breaks into the network, all the data contained within it is compromised. Live video conferences are also prone to attack, as many of them have weak or limited security. Cyberattacks on live-streamed classes can steal private information the student used to access the class, post inappropriate images, and generally disrupt education.
  2. Outdated technology. The likelihood of a cyberattack increases as devices age, as tech companies often stop providing updates and support for older systems. These outdated computers and laptops don’t have the latest protections against ever-changing cyber threats, making it much easier to infiltrate them. Failing to update software regularly has the same effect, as it isn’t difficult for cyber criminals to access a device that students consistently delay or decline to update.
  3. Ransomware attacks. Ransomware attacks aren’t a new concept, but they have staggering implications within K-12 educational institutions. Hackers break into the network through social engineering tactics to steal confidential student information and threaten to leak the data if the school doesn’t pay a ransom. Many of these students are minors, and parents expect the school to protect their children against such violations.
  4. Student loan scams. President Biden temporarily paused student loan payments to help offset the financial burden created by the pandemic. However, the pause is set to end by August 31. Phishing scams and phone fraud are likely to run rampant as cyber criminals manipulate students into providing personal information. Students may fall victim to loan forgiveness fraud, often paying a fee for a false service. They may hand over their passwords or other sensitive information at the lure of reducing their loans or lowering their payments.

Educating students and instructors about the dangers and likelihood of a cyberattack, as well as how to recognize a phishing attempt, can help prevent a successful data breach. Even with enhanced precautions, cyber criminals can worm their way into networks and wreak havoc. Contact Windermere Insurance Group to learn more about the benefits of cybersecurity insurance.