COVID-19 has opened a gate for cybercriminals to exploit the security vulnerabilities at schools, colleges, and other educational institutions. As most of the students use virtual setups to learn from home has made cybercriminals easily exploit the security vulnerabilities. Educational institute stores most sensitive data like student records, personally identifiable information, and protected health information this has made vulnerable to ransomware attacks. Using this sensitive data, hackers can easily threaten to expose it.

How ransomware attacks executed?

A ransomware attack usually begins with a hacker or cybercriminal gaining unauthorized access to a school network or a specific computer. It may be difficult to detect this initial intrusion depending on your school’s security systems and perimeter. Once the hacker has control over a piece of hardware, they install and run the malware.

An example would be a student browsing the web on their school tablet or laptop at home can easily be tricked into clicking on a malicious link by accident. If that device is connected and synced to OneDrive as part of the school’s Office 365 account, a ransomware file can be automatically uploaded to OneDrive and encrypt the school’s files and data held in the Microsoft cloud. Similarly applies to the teachers.

Most of the ransomware attacks have been targeted to higher grade students. Attackers can disrupt videoconferencing sessions, including distance learning sessions, by harassing, sharing images that are inappropriate for a classroom or even dox members of the audience.

Despite these examples, many organizations still labor under the misapprehension that they don’t need to worry because the data hosted in Office 365 cloud is protected by Microsoft.

How to protect against cyberattacks

As more schools incorporate technology in the classroom and depend on it for everyday functions like payroll and heating and cooling, potential vulnerability for attacks increases. Schools should make potential discussion based on potential benefits of technology with the potential risks that they introduce, among those are cybersecurity risks. We recommend that organizations use a third-party solution to backup and protect their data.

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