Tags: Coronavirus | Education | hackers | zoombomb | virtual learning | schools | phishing

Hackers Likely to Keep Targeting Schools Conducting Classes Virtually

woman in green shirt sets up a zoom call on a mac desktop
An elementary school principal sets up a class on Zoom. (Paula Merritt/AP Photo)

By    |   Friday, 21 August 2020 10:32 AM

Universities and schools across the country are warning students that they may be more susceptible to being hacked as instruction remains virtual in parts of the country, The Hill reports.

As students prepare to take classes over Zoom and other online platforms, school officials have cautioned that hackers may attempt email phishing scams, “Zoombombs” and other malicious attacks.

“We are seeing a dramatic increase in phishing, this is fully expected, we knew it would happen with any major calamity,” Michael Tran Duff, chief privacy officer and chief information security officer (CISO) at Stanford University, said during a virtual event hosted by software company Proofpoint on Wednesday.

Earlier this year, Stanford was one of several universities impacted by a phishing email scheme where cyber predators used student emails to apply for fraudulent loans.

“It’s not surprising that these phishing attacks — especially because this is one of the greatest disruptions our country has ever seen — have been more successful maybe than in the past,” Duff said.

Officials say they expect an uptick in the cyber hacks especially as schools are facing budget shortfalls.

During the event, Helen Patton, the CISO of Ohio State University, said she has seen high levels of phishing emails sent to people affiliated with the university.

“We see an increase in phishing attacks when our people come back to college in the fall because they know our folks are going to be more off kilter,” Patton said. “When summer came, into May and June, the normal expectation would be to see phishing decrease, we didn’t quite see that this year.”

The federal government has warned of foreign cyber attackers targeting groups involved in coronavirus research.

Erik Decker, the chief security and privacy officer at the University of Chicago Medicine, said during the Proofpoint event that people at the school had been targeted by “weaponized” coronavirus-themed phishing emails, particularly those aimed at stealing credentials or installing malware.

Higher education institutions aren’t the only ones preparing for an influx of cyber attacks.

Several K-12 schools reported they were Zoombombed when learning went virtual this spring. Hackers interrupted learning with inappropriate content including racist comments and pornography.

Doug Levin, founder and president of consulting firm EdTech Strategies, told The Hill that Zoombombing isn’t going away. He said he has seen “evidence of a strong uptick in incidents.”

He helps run the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center, which tracks cybersecurity incidents on school districts. 

He said the center has tracked over 900 cases as of this week. The center began tracking cases in 2016. The incidents range from data breaches to ransomware attacks.

Levin told The Hill that while he saw a “dramatic drop off” of cyberattacks separate from Zoombombing incidents in March and April, that trend has reversed course as students begin returning to online classes.

“I’m quite worried about the next month in particular as students are returning to campus and having to bounce back to remote learning,” he said. “I think this is going to be introducing a lot of new risks, and I think unlike the Spring when this situation caught everyone off guard, I think we’ve seen enough evidence now that malicious actors understand these trends and they are looking to take advantage of it and to take advantage of schools.”

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Universities and schools across the country are warning students that they may be more susceptible to being hacked as instruction remains virtual in parts of the country, The Hill reports. As students prepare to take classes over Zoom and other online platforms, school...
hackers, zoombomb, virtual learning, schools, phishing, cyberattack
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2020-32-21
Friday, 21 August 2020 10:32 AM
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