As more South African children head back to school in the midst of COVID-19 and lockdown, more institutions are looking at ways that digital education is used to keep the curriculum ticking over. Acutely aware of this, cybercriminals have been looking to take advantage of the situation, as evidenced by the latest DDoS report from Kaspersky.

In fact the cybersecurity firm notes that distributed denial of service attacks grew exponentially in the first half of 2020.

“For each month from January to June 2020, the number of DDoS attacks affecting educational online resources increased by at least 350% when compared to the corresponding month in 2019,” explains Kaspersky in a press release sent to Hypertext.

With more people than ever online over the last six months due to the pandemic, networks became a preferred target of an attack. In fact, globally, the total number of DDoS attacks increased by 80% in Q1 2020 when compared to Q1 2019. Moreover, attacks on educational resources accounted for a large portion of this growth,” the firm adds. 

As we saw at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the associated lockdowns/quarantines, online services and videoconferencing platforms in particular were targeted.

The same held true for those in the education sphere, according to Kaspersky, with the likes of Moodle, Zoom, edX, Coursera, Google Meet, Google Classroom and Blackboard being used for DDoS attacks.

“From January to June 2020, 168,550 unique Kaspersky users encountered increase number of various threats distributed under the guise of popular online learning platforms/video conferencing applications. Educators also encountered an increasing number of phishing pages and emails exploiting these same platforms, also putting them at risk of downloading various threats,” the firm notes.

“Remote learning has become a necessity for billions of students this year, and many educational institutions were forced to make the transition with little or no preparation. The ensuing increase in the popularity of online educational resources coupled with this lack of preparedness made the educational sector an ideal target for cyber-attacks,” adds Alexander Gutnikov, security expert at Kaspersky.

Unsurprisingly, the expert is advising on educational institutions to up their security protocols during this time.

“Moving forward, as many schools and universities plan to conduct classes online – at least part of the time – it’s critical these organisations take steps to secure their digital learning environments,” says Gutnikov.

He has also provided three specific recommendations for schools and universities when it comes to safeguarding against DDoS attacks, which are:

  • “Maintain web resources operations by assigning specialists who understand how to respond to DDoS attacks. They must also be prepared to respond out-of-hours, during evenings and weekends.
  • Validate third-party agreements and contact information including those made with Internet service providers. This helps teams quickly access agreements in case of an attack.
  • Implementing professional solutions will safeguard an organisation from DDoS attacks.”

To read Kaspersky’s latest report (PDF) for yourself, head here.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]