Global security company Kaspersky on Wednesday (3 Feb) revealed that the number of users that faced cyberthreats disguised as popular online learning platforms has increased by 60 per cent in the second half of last year, with about 270,171 affected users.
In a statement, it noted that the educational sector continues to attract the attention of cybercriminals on the Internet, given that schools in many countries experience renewed closures or pursue a hybrid model of learning – in-person and remote – amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of users that encountered various threats distributed under the guise of popular online learning platforms – or video conferencing applications – have significantly increased from January to June last year, with 168,550 total affected users, according to Kaspersky.
As of January this year, the number of users encountering various threats using popular online learning platforms as a lure reached 270,171, a 60 per cent increase as compared to the first half of last year.
Anton Ivanov, Kaspersky’s security expert, noted that educational institutions will continue to be “a popular target” for cybercriminals, particularly since the education sector has “traditionally not prioritized its cybersecurity”.
“However, the pandemic has made it clear that this has to change, especially since technology is increasingly being incorporated in the classroom—virtual learning or not,” said Mr Ivanov.
Users typically encounter threats disguised as popular video meeting apps and online course platforms through fake application installers, which they may encounter on unofficial websites designed to look like the original platforms or emails disguised as special offers or notifications from the platform.
The most popular lure was Zoom, but Kaspersky indicated it as “not surprising” given that Zoom deemed to be the most popular platform for virtual meetings with more than 300 million daily meeting participants.
The second most popular was Moodle, followed by Google Meet, it added.
Kaspersky highlighted that only Google Classroom has not seen a spike in the number of users that encountered such cyber threats.
It stated that the majority of the threats encountered were not a virus, which is divided into riskware and adware.
Adware bombards users with unwanted ads, while riskware consists of various files – from browser bars and download managers to remote administration tools – that may carry out various actions on the user’s computer without getting consent.
Additionally, trojans made up roughly 1 per cent of the threats encountered.
Kaspersky also advised users not to download any unofficial versions or modifications of these applications or platforms, always look for information about the developer, and only choose the official app stores.
Users are also encouraged to use strong passwords for each of their accounts, use a reliable security solution, and check the official company website before proceeding to download anything to a device.
“Fake websites may look just like the real thing, so you should always double-check the URL format and spelling of the company name before you download anything,” it added.