#EdTech has soared to new heights as COVID-19 induced quarantines force learning institutions to shut their doors. The vast majority of the world’s students are currently unable to attend school, prompting greater reliance on technology-based learning solutions.
Although these options are mutually beneficial for both learners and educators, education technology has one notable weakness: A higher likelihood of the systems falling prey to ambitious cyber criminals.
Education Technology: Growth and Development
Incorporating technology into education is inevitable, especially as it has lagged compared to other fields in this respect. One of the issues is the lack of support for educators to learn and profit from new technologies, and the finances to implement them.
The United Kingdom pledged £10 million to support the Education Technology Strategy, a plan published early in April to support and improve digital learning.
The end goal is to drive change in education for the better through technological innovation. For instance, cutting out time-consuming manual administrative tasks, and allowing teachers to pursue individually tailored training courses online.
Educators and students can communicate easily via existing apps such as Facetime or Skype. Virtual reality can transform how subjects are taught; anti-cheating software should keep the learning process above-board.
Platforms allow for resources to be shared and updated as needed, as well as provide helpful tools such as speech-to-text and instant messaging. Students can access their virtual classrooms from their laptops, tablets, and phones, allowing for greater accessibility.
School administrations will be able to review data collected through the usage of such software to better allocate financial resources. Grades, performance, and other crucial information can be recorded automatically for future reference.
Unfortunately, educational institutions are not exempt from being targeted by hackers and scams, particularly as they become more tech-friendly. In September 2019, a LGfL report revealed 83 percent of schools in the UK had experienced a cybersecurity breach.
Phishing attacks were the most common type of threat, with malware infection coming in second. Finally, 21 percent of the attacks consisted of spoofing, a technique in which cybercriminals dupe the victim into believing they are a trusted source.
Despite that, the majority of the surveyed schools stated they had defenses in place in the form of antivirus software and firewalls. However, computers and other items that are permanently on-campus are no longer the sole means of accessing sensitive data or infecting the system.
The fact that digital curriculums allow participants to engage from any device anywhere is a disadvantage where it concerns online security. The “Bring Your Own Device” culture is the primary culprit: Consider the thousands of privately-owned devices that connect to a school or university’s WiFi network per day.
Not every gadget is up-to-date with the latest software and safeguards. Realistically, institutions cannot control how students and staff choose to handle their devices, and a single compromised smartphone or laptop could open the door to the entire network.
An additional threat is an operational technology (OT) on campus, which consists of infrastructural appliances that are now sophisticated enough to connect to WiFi networks, such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Such items are easy to overlook as potential entryways for viruses or malicious software, although they can theoretically be used as such.
As more schools collect, store, and exchange information online, strong cybersecurity is non-negotiable. Vulnerabilities can leave the private data of individuals up for grabs, as well as the institution’s financial records and more.
IT departments are left with the burden of coming up with a comprehensive defense stratagem to cover all these bases to prevent the worst from happening.
Protecting Online Educational Communities
Educational technology is the way of the future, and stunting its growth to lessen the risk of cyberattacks is not feasible. Extreme measures such as Orwellian, agent-based software installed on every device that enters school premises are equally unthinkable.
One method IT departments can employ to stay on the offensive is to track how many devices and what type are connected to the network. Then, security protocols can be created accordingly: For example, restricted staff-only access to specific networks in which sensitive data is transmitted. Protecting the networks themselves is vital, too: institutions must ensure secure connections with a VPN.
Nevertheless, the simplest way to boost cybersecurity is through encouraging awareness about common-sense defensive protocols. IT departments cannot be wholly responsible for preventing attacks in the era of BYOD.
If every individual who uses educational technology invests time in defending their own devices, the chance of a breach occurring should decrease significantly. Users unfamiliar with sophisticated software need to make the effort to fully comprehend how to use the technologies at their disposal to avoid inadvertent negligence.
There’s no doubt that digital educational communities allow students, educators, and administrators alike to thrive. Despite that, all involved must remember that cybersecurity should be a priority — where there are online activities of any sort, there is a risk of cyberattack.