60% Rise in threats guise as online learning platforms

Threats disguised as online learning tools

Mumbai: 60% Rise in threats guise as online learning platforms in the second half of 2020, according to Kaspersky.

As many as 270,171 users between July to December 2020, encountered various threats disguised as popular learning platforms. Its a 60% rise in threats count compared to the first half of 2020.

As the pandemic continues and schools experience renewed closures or pursue a hybrid model of learning (in-person and remote), the educational sector continues to attract the attention of cybercriminals on the Internet.

To help educators stay secure, Kaspersky has launched a digital toolkit that teaches cybersecurity best practices.

Globally over a billion school children were affected due to school closures as countries attempted to slow rising infection rates. For many, that meant a switch to emergency remote learning—a transition that, unfortunately, left many students and educators vulnerable to cyber risks.

Now, schools around the globe, from England and Germany to Malaysia and the US, are once again closing as countries fight a resurgence in infections, and, not surprisingly, this has led to some undesirable consequences.

From January to June 2020, the total number of users that encountered various threats distributed under the guise of popular online learning platforms/video conferencing applications was 168,550 – a 20,455% increase when compared to the same period for 2019.

This number has only continued to grow from July to December, as discovered by Kaspersky experts. As of January 2021, the number of users encountering various threats using popular online learning platforms as a lure reached 270,171—a 60% rise compared to the first half of 2020.

Comparison of users that encountered various threats disguised as popular online learning/video conferencing platforms Jan-June 2020 vs July-December 2020.

By far Zoom was the most popular lure. This is not surprising given that Zoom is the most popular platform for virtual meetings, with more than 300 million daily meeting participants.

Moodle the second most popular followed by Google Meet. The number of users that encountered threats disguised as popular online learning/video conference platforms increased for all but one platform—Google Classroom.

About 98% of threats encountered were not-a-virus, which are 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 your computer without your consent. Trojans made up roughly 1% of the threats encountered.

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.

“Unfortunately, until all students are back in the classroom full-time, educational institutions will continue to be a popular target for criminals, particularly since this sector has traditionally not prioritized its cybersecurity,” said Anton Ivanov, Security expert – Kaspersky.

“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,” added Ivanov.

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