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DDoS attacks against online education escalate amid Covid-19 pandemic

DDoS attacks against online education escalate amid Covid-19 pandemic

Kaspersky says DDoS attacks increased by 350 per cent year on year in H1 2020

Covid-19 shifted much of the global education system online, vastly expanding the online footprint for cybercriminals to exploit.

According to cybersecurity firm Kaspersky, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against educational resources grew exponentially this spring when compared to the previous year. For each month from January to June 2020, the number of DDoS attacks affecting educational online resources increased by at least 350 per cent when compared to the corresponding months in 2019.

In a DDoS attack, cybercriminals attempt to overwhelm a network server with requests for services so that the server crashes — denying users access. DDoS attacks are particularly problematic because they can last anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks, causing disruptions to organisations’ operations and — in the case of educational resources — denying students and staff access to critical materials.

With more people than ever online due to the pandemic this spring and summer, networks became a preferred target of an attack. Globally, the total number of DDoS attacks increased by 80 per cent in Q1 2020 when compared to Q1 2019. Attacks on educational resources accounted for a large portion of this growth. Between January and June 2020, the number of DDoS attacks affecting educational resources increased by at least 350 per cent when compared to the corresponding month in 2019.

“Remote learning became a necessity for billions of students this past spring, 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,” said Alexander Gutnikov, a security expert at Kaspersky.

Read: Sheikh Hamdan launches Dubai Cyber Index to enhance cybersecurity among government entities

DDoS attacks weren’t the only cyber threats faced by educators and students this past spring. From January to June 2020, Kaspersky says 168,550 of its users encountered an increased number of various threats distributed under the guise of popular online learning platforms/video conferencing applications (Moodle, Zoom, edX, Coursera, Google Meet, Google Classroom, Blackboard). Educators also encountered an increasing number of phishing pages and emails exploiting these same platforms, putting them at risk of downloading various threats.

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