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Have you completed your cybersecurity homework?

Cybersecurity must become part of the school culture.   | Photo Credit: Freepik

The pandemic has transformed the traditional classroom model to a digital screen — a single pane for the entire education system. With classrooms operating virtually, students and teachers are exposing themselves to more cyber risks than they realise. Educational institutions have long been a target for malicious actors and this has been validated by recent research that names education and manufacturing as the most targeted sectors since the pandemic.

Is security the backbencher?

Lack of awareness and weak policies governing the space make the education sector alarmingly vulnerable to cyber threats. Shortage of resources and technology investment further deepens the problem. There is a pressing need to maintain control over how the influx of data is used, stored, and shared inside and outside of the virtual class. As students and teachers operate from less controlled environments outside of school, the need to educate them on basics such as phishing and cyberbullying, and inculcating overall cybersecurity hygiene is imperative.

Government initiatives like CSC help students understand the implications of security in the digital world through interactive workshops and trainings that help them make responsible and informed decisions in cyberspace. However, there is a lot more to be done and only by prioritising these conversations at the grassroots can we go beyond the tip of the iceberg.

Raising digital citizens

Online scams are successful because they ride on emotional vulnerabilities and behavioural limitations. Parents and teachers need to empower students with information and strategies to defend themselves online. Cybersafety must be discussed often, and with due seriousness.

The past few months have created the perfect storm for online predators. Young learners and first-time users on insecure networks are exposed to malware or phishing.

What you can do: Never click unsolicited links included in emails, text messages, or screen pop-ups. Even if you know the sender, scrutinise the email/text before you reply. Just like the real world, beware of ‘digital stranger danger’ in the virtual one. Do not to befriend strangers, send them personal photos/videos, no matter how much they insist.

There is a possibility of cyberbullying or cyberharassment from known and unknown people online. Remember, all online content is permanent. Even if you try deleting it, there is still a record floating around in the cyberworld. It is imperative that kids pay close attention to all posts, videos, and images they upload.

What you can do: Engage in safe social networking and avoid giving out too much personal information. Maximise privacy settings on social profiles and delete any post that unintentionally gives away personal data. Consider removing the names of family members, school, home town, and birthdays.

Other tips: Strong passwords are an essential. Use complex catchphrases and combinations of letters, characters, and numbers. Opt for two-factor authentication to add another layer of protection between you and a potential attacker. As devices are often used across family members, it is critical that security software is present on all endpoints, minimising the risk of attack vectors. Scrutinise websites and downloads. Only trust websites with HTTPS in the URL, instead of HTTP, as the ‘S’ stands for secure.

As technology is now the enabler of education, cybersecurity too must be part of the school culture, embedded in the way we teach, and the way we learn. The schools of the future have already arrived. When we don’t treat cybersecurity as a safety issue, we invite cybercriminals into our homes, classrooms and our lives.

The writer is Vice-President of Engineering and Managing Director, McAfee India

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2020 5:10:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/have-you-completed-your-cybersecurity-homework/article32880694.ece

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