school work at home

Schools Could Face Increase in Phishing Attacks Targeting Staff, Students and Parents

Already grappling with Zoombombing incidents, remote education platforms and parents’ emails are the next site of hacking threats in the education sector.

The uptick in cybersecurity attacks has not spared school districts and students during the coronavirus pandemic, with cybersecurity experts concerned that hackers are targeting less cyber-savvy parents and kids with phishing attacks.

Already, administrators have grappled with “Zoombombing” incidents where online trolls took advantage of open Zoom conferences or snuck their way into a classroom meeting. Several of those trolls yelled obscene language or showed pornographic images, leading some districts, including New York City schools, to ban the use of Zoom by teachers to conduct virtual classes.

In addition, schools are prime targets for other types of cyber incidents, according to Governing. The FBI has warned that remote education platforms, used by schools across the country to upload assignments and facilitate teacher-student communication, have been targets for hackers.

Because districts are known for not having sufficient cybersecurity staff or training for existing staff, hackers have kept schools in their sights even before the pandemic, Governing reported. The number of attacks in 2019, which amounted to around 350, could go up this year particularly as attackers take advantage of “social engineering attacks,” said James Yeagar, CrowdStrike’s vice president of public sector.

“Ed tech is at risk of falling victim to these schemes, as students and/or parents may click on a link thinking it’s a virtual classroom or some other method of electronic curriculum when instead it’s a cybercriminal attempting to gain login credentials,” Yeager told Governing.

Since families are mostly using personal devices, including smartphones and computers, to access classroom material or access district updates, the entire system is at risk because those IoT devices could be at higher risk due to a lack of security patching.

Computer or iPad distribution to students who do not have access to a home computer could be helpful in addressing some of the IoT risks since the devices could be maintained by the district. But districts would need enough staff bandwidth and cybersecurity know-how to carry out this plan.

Yeager said that school administrators can still do their part to help students and parents navigate a challenging technology environment during the pandemic.

"While school systems may not have the IT infrastructure, tools and manpower that large enterprises do, they can still do their part to ensure teachers and students can safely keep class in session as we get through this crisis," Yeager said.

About the Author

Haley Samsel is an Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.

Featured

  • Making Safety and Security Intrinsic to School Design

    Public anxieties about school safety are escalating across the country. According to a 2023 Gallup report, 44% of parents fear for their child’s physical safety at school, a 10 percentage-point increase since 2019. Unfortunately, these fears are likely to increase if the incidence of school tragedies continues to mount. As a result, school leaders are now charged with two non-negotiable responsibilities. The first, as always, is to ensure kids have what they need to learn, grow, and thrive. Sadly, their second responsibility is to keep the children in their care safe from threats and physical danger. Read Now

  • Unlocking Peace of Mind

    In a perfect world, every school would have an unlimited budget to help secure their schools. In reality, schools must prioritize what budget they have while navigating the complexities surrounding school security and lockdown Read Now

  • Emerging Campus Access Control Solutions

    Emerging solutions in campus access control can mean different things. Usually, we expect the topic to focus on the very latest in door security products and solutions that have just been recently released or are about to be launched. After all, staying up on improvements to keep campuses safer is critical. Plus, it’s always interesting and exciting to learn what’s new and how innovations are going to better protect lives and assets and help the industry be even more successful. Read Now

  • Here’s How Instructional Audio Can Play a Key Role in School Safety

    Ensuring the safety of students and employees is critical in today’s educational environment. While the threat of a school shooting is in the back of everyone’s mind, the truth is there are many possible scenarios that could crop up at any time in classrooms, hallways, and other school spaces—from fights or altercations to a sick child or staff member who requires emergency attention. Read Now

Webinars