INTERNET SECURITY firm Kaspersky said cyberattacks on the education sector continue to rise as schools pursue a hybrid model of learning amid a pandemic crisis.

Cyberattackers use popular online learning platforms as lures, Kaspersky said in an e-mailed statement on Monday.

It noted users around the globe who encountered threats “distributed under the guise of online learning platforms or video conferencing applications” from January to June 2020 had surged 20,455% to 168,550 when compared with the number of cases in the same period in 2019.

“As of January 2021, the number of users encountering various threats using popular online learning platforms as a lure reached 270,171 — a 60% increase from the first half of 2020,” it added.

The internet security firm identified Zoom as the most popular lure used by cybercriminals.

“This is not surprising, given that Zoom is the most popular platform for virtual meetings, with more than 300 million daily meeting participants,” it said.

Also popular among cyberattackers are Moodle and Google Meet.

“The number of users who encountered threats disguised as popular online learning or video conference platforms increased for all but one platform — Google Classroom,” Kaspersky added.

Threats disguised as video meeting applications are encountered when fake application installers are used.

“They may encounter (threats) on unofficial websites designed to look like the original platforms or e-mails disguised as special offers or notifications from the platform,” it said.

About 98% of the threats encountered were “not-a-virus.” Such threats are classified into two: 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,” it said.

Meanwhile, about 1% of the threats encountered by users were Trojans.

Kaspersky security expert Anton Ivanov said cybercriminals will continue to target schools, where cybersecurity is not a priority, until all students are back in their physical classrooms.

“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,” he said.

To avoid threats disguised as video conferencing applications or online learning platforms, Kaspersky said: “Do not download any unofficial versions or modifications of these applications or platforms.”

“Use different, strong passwords for each of your accounts,” it said. “Always make sure you are on the official company website before proceeding to download anything to your device.” — Arjay L. Balinbin