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How to Avoid Cyber Threats with Online Learning

Online learning platforms continue to increase enrollment, with the number of current users outpacing those who relied on this form of education before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, while such platforms are beneficial in providing resources and education from anywhere at any time, a reliance on digital learning comes with a higher risk of cyberattacks.

Methods of Attack

Cybercriminals use a variety of methods to interfere with online learning platforms. For example, phishing emails and ransomware attacks disrupt classes, prevent learners from accessing materials, and expose sensitive data.

Human error also plays a significant role, with one report estimating over 80% of recent breaches could be attributed to personal oversight. Common concerns for online learning platforms include user reliance on weak, recycled, or easily guessed passwords, which give hackers an easy entry point.

Methods of Protection

Educational organizations can protect themselves from cyberattacks by being prepared. This includes implementing multi-factor authentication, file encryption, frequent network updates, and firewall integration to block unauthorized IP addresses. In addition, data backups, regular security updates, disabled port forwarding, and continuous monitoring for suspicious activity are all essential steps for protection. Secure communication systems like UCx can also be used to ensure safe video collaboration.

Teaching Best Practices

The following best practices should be part of an organization’s efforts to educate students and instructors on how to stay safe while using online learning platforms:

  • Monitor privacy settings and be mindful of how data is accessed or distributed. This includes regularly checking for updates to the platform’s privacy policies and ensuring that data is not being shared with third parties without permission.
  • Only use secure networks, which ensure that all transmitted data is safe. For example, public Wi-Fi is typically unsecured and vulnerable and should not be used.
  • Create strong passwords for all websites, not just online learning platforms. Do not recycle these passwords or security questions across websites, and resist using the same password over time.
  • When taking part in video conferencing, ensure the software is up to date.

Staff and instructors should also require passwords for video conferencing access and implement a process for vetting participants before they are allowed into meetings. Finally, if education organizations are hit with a ransomware attack, then they must make the difficult choice to pay the ransom or not. Paying the ransom does not guarantee file recovery and often emboldens cyber thieves to attack other organizations. Having a dependable backup solution can help make that difficult decision easier for education organizations to make.

Next Steps

Understanding the potential risks associated with cyberattacks is the first step in being proactive. When precautions are taken to protect against cyberattacks, educational organizations need their online learning platforms to be secure for all participants. To learn more, about how educational organizations can avoid cyber threats, contact a TPx expert today.

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