Back to School – 6 Tips to Stay Safe
As you are likely well aware, school is about to begin if it already hasn’t. I am sure you also know that this year will look different from years past. There will be a few things that will remain the same. Back to school sales at brick and mortar retailers for supplies and new clothes. The online e-tailers are hitting hard this year as well for obvious reasons.
With this increased activity will come the customary rise in cyber attacks too. The most recent data from Microsoft shows that the education sector is already seeing a significant spike. Malware attacks on the Education sector are over 5 million in the last 30 days, which is far more than ANY other industry.
Again like any other year cybercrime increases at the times of year when people do more shopping. Times like Christmas and Back-to-school. As well phishing, the oldie but goodie, and all time fav, is one of the easiest ways to strike gold for the bad guys.
While this year has presented new challenges to the education system that we are forced to live with. The work-arounds can and often do present greater challenges. Since a lot of children and teens will be attending classes virtually, either part or full time, they will be spending even more time online than they currently do. Unfortunately this increased time online also increases the risks they face from criminals and predators.
Here are the top threats to watch out for, as well as tips for how to help keep young learners safe during Back to (Virtual) School.
According to Tyler Moffitt, security analyst at Webroot, “phishing isn’t going to go away any time soon. As tactics go, times of year when people do more shopping, like Back to School or Christmas, are a big draw for cybercriminals. We always see a spike in phishing during those times. And with more people shopping and streaming online during COVID-19, I’m betting we’ll see even more activity this year than we would normally expect.”
To underscore Tyler’s point, the latest intelligence shows that phishing URLs targeting global streaming services have increased significantly. In March 2020 alone, the following increases in phishing URLs, broken out by service listed below:
- Netflix – 525% increase
- YouTube – 3,064% increase
- Twitch – 337% increase
- HBO – 525% increase
Keeping our young learners safe while online is a top priority. While we all know that email scams can find victims anywhere but there are a wide variety of venues that phishing is perpetrated. As adults we should know to be wary of what comes to us through the various communication tools we use but we really need to ensure that we educate our young ones that online chat, text(SMS) and even social media that they need to be extra careful about what they click on, what they download and what info they transmit.
Since the beginning of the pandemic when the use of video conferencing skyrocketed opened the door for new ways for the bad guys to cause trouble. Named after the Zoom video conferencing platform, zoom-bombing refers to the act of intruding on a video conference on ANY platform and causing a disruption such as displaying pornography, hate speech and or anything else that the perpetrator feels will interfere with the conference.
There have also been reports of fake executables. those are the files that are downloaded and installed to run the desired program. These fakes can be manipulated to install malware on the users computer. The malware can run the full gamut from keyloggers to ransomware.
Fake Websites and Spoofing
Researchers have seen huge increase in the number of fake websites these days.Those with “COVID” and related terms such as pandemic, and even government entities.These fakes are very well done and to an unsuspecting visitor will appear to be the authentic site they are attempting to access
“A lot of people will have to access specific websites and online systems for school and related activities,” Moffitt says. “Criminals will effectively set traps, so that a mistyped URL or a fake search result could land you on a fake page that looks completely real, only to steal your info or install malware on your system.”
Tips to Keep Your Family Safe
Here are 6 tips for keeping your family safe online through Back to School and beyond.
- Use internet security software.
If you haven’t already, install internet security with antivirus on all your devices, especially those that will be used for schoolwork. Don’t forget about using a VPN to protect kids’ internet activity from prying eyes.
- Update videoconferencing software.
Make sure children and teens are always using the most up-to-date versions of Zoom (or any other videoconferencing software) to ensure they have the latest patches to prevent malware distribution and disruptions.
- Watch out for phishing in all its forms.
Talk to kids about phishing. Make sure you all know to look before you click. And remember, phishing scams can look just like a text message from a best friend, classmate, or teacher, so always be wary of messages that ask you to click a link or download a file. Use a secondary means of communication, like a phone call, to verify that these are legitimate.
- Use your bookmarks.
Bookmark all required distance learning pages. Criminals may try to spoof these for phishing, especially if there is a popular portal that many schools use. Using a bookmark, instead of Googling and clicking a search result, will help ensure that your kids are on the right page.
- Just say ‘no’ to macros.
If you or your kids download a document and it asks you to enable macros or enable content, DO NOT DO IT. This is very likely to be a malicious file that will infect your computer.
- Use a secure backup.
When we’re all so reliant on our computers and other internet-connected devices to work and study, it’s extra important to make sure they’re backed up. Nobody wants to lose a term paper or other important documents to a malware infection, hardware failure, damage, loss, or theft. Save yourself the hassle and heartache by investing in backup software.
This Back to School season, it’s especially vital that we all do what we can to ensure children and teens have the skills, awareness, and security protocols to stay safe. By following these tips, you can help make sure they stay safe today, tomorrow, and beyond.
One final thought here. PLEASE,PLEASE,PLEASE,PLEASE,PLEASE, turn off location on your mobile devices and never broadcast your whereabouts on social media. When you take a photo and check in at your favorite eatery and post it on social media, you are telling the entire world that you are not at home. While your account may be safe can you be 100% sure everyone on your friends list is. That goes for the kids too. If you are known to be out and your teenage daughter is home alone posting that fact as well it creates a very dangerous situation. It only takes 1 bad guy to change your life or your daughters life forever. Be Smart, Be SAFE!