Cybersecurity Threats Grow as Virtual Learning Continues

NASHVILLE, TENN. (WSMV) – As schools are back in session, so are hackers and cyber-criminals looking to take advantage while students and districts continue to adapt to a new style of learning and teaching.

 “There wasn’t anything that they necessarily did wrong, it’s just something they weren’t prepared for,” said Randy Watkins, chief technology officer for cybersecurity company CRITICALSTART.

Watkins is trying to make sure schools are prepared for potential hacking attempts like some experienced in the Spring.

One thing he’s seen is attempts to overload school district computer systems.

“Essentially they’re giving the platform more traffic than it can handle, which makes it unavailable for legitimate traffic,” Watkins said. “So it’s actually preventing the students from logging-in and preventing them from getting their education.”

But why would anyone want to do that?

Watkins says there could be several different reasons.

 “There’s a lot of different motivations for an attacker, sometimes it’s notoriety. Sometimes it’s a prank,” Watkins said. “In this instance, it was actually a student at the school to be funny or prevent themselves from having to go back to school.”

While many districts have been working with cybersecurity teams to protect their networks, families at home may be more vulnerable.

“Microsoft and other applications on your computer release regular security updates, so make sure you’re keeping up with those,” Watkins said. “Maintain proper antivirus coverage. You should have an application on your machine that’s meant to stop malicious software from being installed.”

Most importantly, in this digital era, it’s best to encourage everyone in your household that’s using a computer to have a critical eye, even youngsters.

“Unfortunately yes, we are putting more responsibility on them to be responsible stewards of security,” Watkins said.

In addition to protecting their systems, school districts are also responsible for protecting your child’s personal information.

Watkins suggests parents reach out to their students’ schools to ask what they’re doing to protect that information.

Featured in News 4 Nashville | August 27, 2020

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