Cybersecurity for the new school and apprenticeship year

Not only is COVID-19 a danger for students and trainees, cybersecurity is also a challenge. Jen Miller-Osborn, Deputy Director, Threat Intelligence, Unit 42 at Palo Alto Networks, shares three tips for a safe start to school.

The start of the new school year is all about following the latest COVID-19 guidelines to protect the health of students, parents and teachers. However, it is also important to practice basic cybersecurity hygiene in order to stay safe online.

Schools typically use older equipment and software: these are more vulnerable to cyberattacks as these outdated systems are harder to update. To make matters worse, many students, parents, and teachers are not using their devices according to best practices when it comes to safety. New data from Palo Alto Networks shows that the percentage of traffic from phishing URLs (which direct users to bogus websites to steal personal information) targeting the education sector increased 47 percent in June and 27 percent in July is. This shows that hackers are intensifying their attacks in the run-up to the new school year.

  1. Different passwords for different accounts and devices.

This is a good security practice, but one that everyone struggles with. In a 2020 study by SecureAuth, 53 percent of respondents admitted that they use the same password for multiple accounts, making it easy for hackers to hijack accounts and steal personal information.

This problem can often be observed in schools. For example, Unit 42 reports cases where teachers share passwords for streaming services in the classroom. This type of password sharing can be exploited by hackers to steal credentials and possibly compromise accounts for other online services if the same email address and password are used.

So use a strong username and password for every account and device and use a password manager to keep track of everything. In addition, use a secure username and password for the password manager itself and make sure that you also activate two-factor authentication (2FA). Two-factor authentication increases security by requiring two methods of verifying your identity, something you know (e.g. a password) and something you have (e.g. a device). Two-factor authentication protects your logins from hackers who exploit weak or stolen credentials. When 2FA is enabled, the password manager has an additional layer of security for the personal information stored in it.

  1. Training and prevention

It’s important to know if your school is protecting your child’s privacy and is taking steps to keep hackers from disrupting your child’s education.

For example, this summer in the UK the National Cyber ​​Security Center (NCSC) issued an alert to respond to the rise in ransomware attacks on the national education sector, including schools, colleges and universities. The campaign underscores the need for institutions in the sector to protect their networks and to adhere to government guidelines on “malware and ransomware mitigation”.

Ransomware in particular has turned into a global crisis, with the education sector particularly hard hit. Students’ personal information is particularly valuable to hackers as children and their parents are less likely to notice that someone is using their identity to fraud, especially if they don’t have a bank account in the child’s name to be warned about.

Ask your school what they are doing to protect against cyber threats. Is she investing in cybersecurity solutions to protect her infrastructure and your child’s data? Does training for students and teachers raise awareness of safety issues? The more you can learn about your school’s security, the better.

  1. Concern: While children are increasingly tech savvy, they are not cybersecurity

Today’s kids are growing up in the digital age of screens and social media, and as a parent, keeping up with the latest technologies and platforms can be difficult. According to a 2020 Ofcom study, four in ten parents of 5-15 year olds find it difficult to control their children’s screen time.

Familiarize yourself with your children’s devices and learning platforms, especially with configuring parental controls and privacy settings. Make sure that you are performing basic safety measures with your children and their devices, such as walking around. B. enabling two-factor authentication (2FA), detecting phishing scams, installing the latest software patches, covering webcams when they are not in use, avoiding public Wi-Fi networks and how previously mentioned the use of strong passwords.

Children are taught basic safety tips, such as: B. not talking to strangers or buckling up in the car. It’s also important to teach them basic online safety tips to help protect their digital way of life – at home and in the classroom.

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