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Wednesday 30 September 2020
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Why Hacking Has Become A Major Issue For Rochester-Area Teachers

Cyber crime has been an issue since the dawn of the internet. Due to the anonymity the internet provides, it’s relatively easy for skilled criminals to present false or fraudulent information to consumers, preying upon their vulnerability. However, there is now even more of an opening for these criminals in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has driven more people online than ever before, and due to the fact that they must now conduct classes remotely, teachers are particularly vulnerable to cyber criminal attacks. Teachers in here in the Rochester area have found themselves dealing with this issue since taking the classroom to the virtual sphere, though it has also been a problem across the rest of the state.

Understanding How Hackers Are Stealing The Personal Information Of Teachers

Hackers have essentially stolen the personal information of local teachers in order to take advantage of the current unemployment benefits, filing for them in the teachers’ names. While the idea of hackers stealing personal information online may not be entirely unfamiliar to some, the question of why teachers are now being targeted more than they were prior to the pandemic may linger. The answer lies in the virtual teaching portals that schools have set up recently, which are more accessible than they might be otherwise in order to make virtual teaching easier. Teachers must store their personal information within these portals, which means that it’s now much simpler for hackers to access that information than it usually would be.

Unfortunately, this security breach was not uncovered until authorities contacted school districts regarding why faculty and staff were filing for unemployment benefits. The first district in New York to reveal that it was dealing with this problem was Fairport. Fairport reported that some of its employees had been affected by the hack; however, the crime does not seem to have been committed by anyone working within the school districts, and the case is still currently being investigated. The FBI continues to research the case, while also giving warnings about the prospects of these types of crime rising in numbers.

Why Cyber Crimes Will Continue To Rise

While it’s important for teachers to be protected from cyber crime as much as possible, it’s somewhat impossible to avoid it entirely. This is due to the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult or impossible for New York teachers to return to the classroom, and therefore they must continue to work virtually. Online learning is expected to remain a huge factor for New York State school districts in the fall, and the FBI is warning them to prepare.

Nearly 300 miles away, the Cleveland division of the FBI is instructing local districts to update their security systems, though hacking is not a problem isolated to school districts. Businesses and municipalities are also suffering from hacking threats, as well as issues surrounding ransomware. Ransomware could potentially be an even greater problem for school districts, presenting a problem similar to that presented by hacking, while differing significantly.

Ransomware is a specific type of virus, which essentially takes hold of different computer systems and the information those systems may hold, demanding money in return for their release. Obviously, this not only puts teachers and in some cases even students at risk; it also means that instruction could be even more delayed for students.

Schools are therefore being instructed to take proactive action, backing up all records and having up to date backup systems in place, should their primary system fall prey to an attack. In the case of a ransomware attack, districts are being instructed not to pay. But at the same time, they are also expected to inform parents and students about how to differentiate between secure and genuine classroom invitations and those that are falsified. As COVID-19 appears to be a long-term issue, however, everyone from teachers to students and those outside of the school district should be taking steps to avoid becoming the targets of cyber crimes.

Avoiding Becoming A Victim Of Cyber Crimes

There are a number of ways in which schools, as well as businesses and individuals, can avoid becoming the victims of cyber crimes. Much of this has to do with spreading awareness, as cyber crimes are fairly avoidable overall. Unfortunately, a lot of teachers and particularly young students are not aware of the steps that they should take to avoid being hacked. Furthermore, one step that is often recommended, that is avoiding storing personal information online, is difficult for teachers to avoid due to the circumstances at hand. A lot of schools also set passwords for their teachers, which is why it’s important for web administrators to ensure that these passwords are complex and meant to ward off hackers.

There are a lot of benefits to cloud technology, which is one reason why it has been adopted by businesses and school districts alike. An estimated 82% of businesses have saved money through the cloud. However, the cloud is not without its issues. As a large quantity of information is essentially being stored online through this platform, it is somewhat vulnerable to hackers if not attended to properly, despite the fact that it’s been utilized by 96% of organizations. Therefore, operating systems should be updated frequently, and up to date security systems should be prioritized, sparing no expense.

For that matter, web administrators should instruct teachers and students to be very careful with their emails. Students should be given carefully up to date instructions on logging into their own portals and classrooms, and passwords must be changed regularly, particularly for staff. While this may require some getting used to for instructors, it’s ultimately for the best. Not merely for them, but for their students, who won’t have to deal with interruptions in their learning experiences due to hacking or ransomware attacks. There are a number of accommodations being made due to the pandemic, and this is merely one of them.