Cyber threat concerns grow as schools lean on virtual learning

With many school districts using distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns about cyber threats are growing.

Schools and students are now dependent on internet-connected devices to deliver virtual lessons, creating more opportunities for cyber attackers and hackers.

"School districts are in a place where they are completely reliant on all of this online technology and PC systems as a result," said Travis Farral, chief information security officer for CRITICALSTART.

Farral watches networks, looking for signs of malicious activity and alerting organizations when he sees something.

He said cyber threats are increasing as more people are online using different classroom software.

"We've seen a number of school districts get hit with ransomware recently," Farral said. "It's an opportunity for attackers to take advantage of those shifts into that by sending emails that look they are from those services or related to those services.

"(Emails) may look very official. When people click on it, it gives attackers the opportunity to do what they do."

To protect yourself from data breaches, Farral advises showing children how to make sure an email address is legitimate before opening it.

"Helping them to understand the message where they are actually coming from, show them this is the 'from' address, where it's coming from help," said Farral. "Empower them to understand when something doesn't look right."

Home computer cyber-attack protection tips

Additionally, protect your home computers against ransomware. Farral suggests making sure you have a really good anti-virus software that is up to date and applying all software updates.

In the end, do everything you can to make sure hacking your system is a hassle for cyber attackers.

"They would love to be able to get people's passwords, see if it will get them into bank accounts," Farral said. "(To) be able to get that information and leverage it for themselves."

The U.S. Department of Justice has tips to protect your data from ransomware -- CLICK HERE.

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