Cyberattacks against educational resources on the rise this year: Report

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on September 09, 2020

There was an uptick in phishing emails and spam messages containing malware under the guise of legitimate platforms

Cyberattacks against educational resources have witnessed a massive surge this year, according to a report by cybersecurity firm Kaspersky.

Attackers are targeting educational resources using Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, the report said.

DDoS attacks are launched with the aim of overwhelming a network with server requests until the server crashes. Cyberattackers usually utilise a “botnet”, which is a series of infected computers that send out these requests to overload a network.

For each month from January to June 2020, the number of DDoS attacks affecting educational online resources increased by at least 350 per cent, compared to the same time period in 2019, the report said.

“DDoS attacks are particularly problematic because they can last anywhere from a couple days to a few weeks, causing disruptions to organisations’ operations, and in the case of educational resources, denying students and staff access to critical materials,” it said.

Overall, the total number of DDoS attacks in Q1 2020 increased by 80 per cent, compared to Q1 2019.

“DDoS attacks weren’t the only cyber threats faced by educators and students this past spring. From January to June 2020, 168,550 unique Kaspersky users encountered an increased number of various threats distributed under the guise of popular online learning platforms/video conferencing applications (Moodle, Zoom, edX, Coursera, Google Meet, Google Classroom, Blackboard),” the report said.

There was an uptick in phishing emails and spam messages containing malware under the guise of these legitimate platforms.

“Remote learning became a necessity for billions of students this past spring, and many educational institutions were forced to make the transition with little or no preparation. The ensuing increase in the popularity of online educational resources coupled with this lack of preparedness made the educational sector an ideal target for cyber attacks. Moving forward this fall, as many schools and universities plan to conduct classes online — at least part of the time — it’s critical these organisations take steps to secure their digital learning environments,” said Alexander Gutnikov, a security expert at Kaspersky.

Published on September 09, 2020

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