In the light of COVID-19, districts have moved to remote learning in an unprecedented number. But, remote learning means an influx of security challenges. Schools and business has already been victim to cyber-attacks. Since 2016, there have been more than 800 cyber security-related incidents affecting U.S. K–12 public schools and districts, according to the K-12 Cyber Incident Map. Therefore, districts need to be alert and conscious while practicing remote learning .They ought to maintain cyber hygiene to keep themselves safe and secure in internet world.
But what is cyber hygiene and what does it have to do with remote learning?
Cyber hygiene is about training yourself to think proactively about your cyber security — as you do with your daily personal hygiene — to resist cyber threats and online security issues. Unfortunately, cyber security still isn’t taken as seriously as it should be. Some people take cyber security for granted, but this may change, as cyber threats continue to evolve. In the meantime, establishing solid cyber hygiene practices should be as routine as brushing your teeth. –Norton.
In this article, we share with you few important practices to help maintain good cyber hygiene for safe remote learning.
Let us have a look!
Install reputable antivirus and malware software
The first and most important step – install antivirus software. It’s a vital component of overall cyber hygiene in its protection against security breaches, along with other threats as districts are likely to get affected due to their access to various tools and websites for remote learning. These antivirus softwares will help eradicate computer viruses and other malicious software, or malware by pinpointing specific files for the detection of malicious software, scheduling and performing automatic scans, scanning either one particular file or your entire computer, erasing malicious codes and software.
Use network firewalls
Another key habit for maintaining good cyber hygiene –use network firewalls. They are a first line of defense in network security by preventing unauthorized users from accessing your websites, mail servers, and other sources of information that can be accessed from the web.
Update software regularly
Updating software regularly is also an integral step to achieving good cyber hygiene. Therefore, districts should keep their apps, web browsers, and operating systems updated and ask their students to do the same to help eliminate the possible glitches or malware attacks .These regular software updates discover software flaws — flaws that could let in viruses or hackers; also ensure that they have access to latest protections. Besides these, it will also let users work on the latest programs.
Choose the right tool:
We also know, amidst the COVID-19 scare, several e-learning tools and websites have come into play with absolutely free versions or trial versions that may entice educators who are looking to make their remote learning lessons more engaging and effective. But, without the right products and tools, personal information you think is secure could, in fact, be at risk .Thus, educators need to be careful while choosing any learning resource and check, whether, they had been vetted to account for data security and privacy issues.
Educate students, teachers and other school staff
The transition from traditional learning to remote learning has been challenging for various educators and students. So, it’s very important to educate students and educators the basic online safety tips and keep them updated.
An experiment performed by Clinton Public School District in Mississippi is one of the biggest examples. Clinton Public School District sent fake phishing emails to district teachers as an experiment where 474 out of 572 emails sent out were opened, and 272 people clicked a survey link in the email. It was the lack of knowledge due to which they were not able to recognize red flags of a potential phishing attack. Thus, districts need to educate them and make them understand about the potential threats they might get exposed to.
Set strong password
Setting strong passwords for all the devices in use is essential. Passwords should be unique and complex, containing at least 12 characters along with numbers, symbols, and capital and lowercase letters. Also, users need to change their passwords regularly — and never share or reuse the same password; this will help prevent hackers from guessing them out. Furthermore, they should adopt multifactor authentication techniques to reduce risks and mitigate the impact of password theft. They should also screen passwords to make sure they have not been linked to a previous breach or cyber-attack, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Identify potential gaps
Remote learning brings distinctive security challenges to school districts. There are possibilities that students and educators may use their personal devices from home rather than ones owned and encrypted by the district or are working on an unsecured network or forgetting to keep their devices and software updated. In such cases, district needs to keep a check on them; also to get a better sense of potential vulnerabilities, districts should consider having a third-party security risk assessment to help save them from cyber threats.
Beware of suspicious emails, apps or websites
Currently, cyber criminals are using this COVID-19 crisis as their weapon to steal your information. They are creating several websites with addresses similar to official trustworthy sites (e.g., fake Johns Hopkins COVID-19 outbreak map website) that do malicious communication about COVID-19 and may get access to your private information, if you click on the link. Thus, both educators and student need to pay attention to such website addresses and refrain from downloading new apps, especially ones coming through suspicious communications.
Secure your router
Last but not the least, securing your router is very essential for any internet user. This involves turning off and updating the default name and password of the router, turning off remote management, and logging out as the administrator once it’s set up. Users also need to make sure that their router offers WPA2 or WPA3 encryption to maintain the highest level of privacy of information sent via your network.
Needless to say, cyber security is a priority, which internet users often ignore but currently cyber hygiene practices should be baked into remote learning plans. Without them, districts will be more susceptible to security and privacy threats that can disrupt learning & teaching and may lead to serious cybercrimes.