Cyber threats disguised as popular learning platforms up 60% in H2 2020: Report

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on February 09, 2021

Nearly 98% of the threats encountered were divided into riskware and adware

Cyber threats disguised as popular e-learning platforms increased significantly in the second half of 2020, according to cybersecurity firm Kaspersky.

According to Kaspersky, from July to December 2020, 270,171 users encountered various threats disguised as popular learning platforms, an increase of 60 per cent compared to the first half of 2020.

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“Last spring, more than one billion schoolchildren around the globe were affected by school closures as countries attempted to slow rising infection rates. For many, that meant a switch to emergency remote learning — a transition that, unfortunately, left many students and educators vulnerable to cyber risks,” Kaspersky said in an official release.

The total number of users who encountered such cyber threats disguised as popular online learning platforms/video conferencing applications from January to June 2020 was 168,550, a 20,455 per cent increase compared to the same period of 2019.

As of January 2021, the number of users encountering various threats using popular online learning platforms as a lure reached 270,171.

The most popular lure was, by far, Zoom, given its popularity, says the report. Zoom was followed by Moodle and Google Meet.

“The number of users that encountered threats disguised as popular online learning/video conference platforms increased for all but one platform — Google Classroom,” the report said.

Nearly 98 per cent of the threats encountered were divided into riskware and adware.

“Adware bombards users with unwanted ads, while riskware consists of various files — from browser bars and download managers to remote administration tools — that may carry out various actions on your computer without your consent,” explained Kaspersky.

Trojans accounted for roughly 1 per cent of the threats encountered.

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Primarily, users encountered threats disguised as popular video meeting apps and online course platforms through fake application installers. They may come across such installers on unofficial websites designed to look like the original platforms or emails disguised as special offers or notifications from the platform.

“Unfortunately, until all students are back in the classroom full-time, educational institutions will continue to be a popular target for criminals, particularly since this sector has traditionally not prioritised its cybersecurity. However, the pandemic has made it clear that this has to change, especially since technology is increasingly being incorporated in the classroom — virtual learning or not,” said Anton Ivanov, a security expert at Kaspersky.

Kaspersky has also launched a digital toolkit to help educators with cybersecurity best practices.

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Published on February 09, 2021
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