As the 2020 Back to School season begins, a lot of us will probably have to make some adjustments — not least of which will be planning for either a new, entirely online or hybrid online/in-school learning schedule. Here are some of the top concerns you should keep in mind as you and your young learner prepare.
1. Securing personal devices
The amount of technology at our fingertips is growing, and COVID-19 has already begun affecting the device supply chain for schools. Many children and teens will be relying on personal devices to connect to classes and complete schoolwork.
According to the 2020 Webroot™ Threat Report, personal computers have the highest rate of getting infected with malware (computer viruses, ransomware, etc.), compared to business or school computers. Additionally, the latest data from Microsoft shows that the Education sector has recently suffered more encounters with malware (over 5,000,000 in the last 30 days) than any other industry!
Make sure your student is well-prepared and well-armed to stay resilient online as they learn, play, and interact. Install antivirus on their devices and keep it up to date.
2. Back to School scams
Tyler Moffitt, security analyst at our partner OpenText company, Webroot, says phishing scams and fake websites will be on the rise. He explains, “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.”
He also warns that the increase in online traffic due to COVID-19 and related restrictions means we should expect that cybercriminals will ramp up their usual tricks even more. For example, the latest intelligence from the Webroot BrightCloud® Real-Time Anti-Phishing service shows that phishing URLs impersonating streaming services have increased significantly. In March 2020 alone, we saw the following increases in phishing URLs, broken out by service:
- Netflix – 525% increase
- YouTube – 3,064% increase
- Twitch – 337% increase
- HBO – 525% increase
Have a serious chat with any young learners in your household about phishing scams. Keep in mind that phishing isn’t just about scam-y emails, but could also involve someone using text or social media messages to impersonate a fellow classmate, friend, or even teacher. Be wary of any messages that ask you to click a link or download a file. And if a file ever asks you to enable macros or enable content, Tyler says without hesitation, “don’t do it! It’s probably malware!”
Read more about specific Back to School threats in our other post on the Webroot blog, Cybersecurity and Back to (Virtual) School 2020: What You Need to Know.
3. Securing personal data
As more of us rely on our devices and internet connections for business, work, school, and overall interactions, it means we’re basically living more of our lives online. Now think about how devastating it would be if your computer suddenly locked up, stopped working, and never booted up again.
This scenario could happen for a variety of reasons. If you have an older device, it might just be good old-fashioned hardware failure. Or it could be due to a nasty infection like ransomware, which locks up all your files and demands you pay money (usually in the form of cryptocurrency) to get access back. Or what if you or your child accidentally dropped or spilled a drink on a laptop? You might never see those files again.
Sound scary? It should. Nobody wants to lose all their important documents, personal files, music, etc. And any students in your home definitely don’t want to lose a term paper or their homework assignments and class notes.
If you’ve been thinking about setting up a secure backup, now is definitely the time.
While this new Back to School season might look vastly different from those in years past, some things remain the same, i.e. we all want to do our best to enable children and teens to be successful in their schoolwork and beyond. By taking a few simple steps like the ones we’ve outlined here, you can help ensure that your young learners stay resilient online through these new and challenging times.