When the Covid-19 pandemic brushed across the world in 2020, Educational institutes got closed and education was moved to students’ homes. Consequently, our country like many others faced the challenge of an unanticipated and augmented move to online learning.
This represents a crucial time to contemplate technology, pedagogy/andragogy and education. Digital technology played a significant role in empowering teachers to teach students at a distance using tools that enabled both synchronous and asynchronous communication.
As more education functionaries coordinate the Teaching-Learning Process via the internet or digital means, they are constantly in jeopardy and are targeted by hackers through various forms of malware and cyber-attacks.
A report by Check Point Research (CPR), in august 2021 says that the education sector in India was attacked significantly more compared to other industries globally, experiencing 5,196 attacks per week on average.
Online education, being the most prevalent and indispensable medium nowadays, can make students and teachers more exposed to cyber security attacks equally. While both private and public schools are using Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx, or Skype, incessant and precarious cyber practices have put millions of students and teachers at risk.
A reputed school in Bangalore had to stop an online chemistry class on Zoom after a porn video popped up and an unknown identity had entered a Zoom class for a Jamshedpur-based school and started tampering with the shared screens.
Zoom bombings have been a common case across the globe. As the Internet has kept us connected in the pandemic, the risk involved has become more serious.
Some common ways used by cybercriminals are email spoofing, malicious files applications, social engineering, cyberbullying, cyber grooming, identity theft, job fraud, banking frauds, keylogger, SMS spoofing, call spoofing ransom-ware, cyber-stalking, picture morphing, profile hacking, online games, deep-fake, camera hacking, online radicalization and many more.
The Education Sector feels the risk but there seems no other safer alternative. Some have now taken preventive measures but most are still at risk and facing one or other challenging situation now and then.
But online safety and preventive measures are not just, Blocking Websites or Overbearing Internet Monitoring, it isn’t even Heavy Online Restrictions or Limited Internet Usage. The optimum protection from all the cyber intimidations for children is to simplify their access to the internet, safeguard their privacy, embolden individualism, and make sure that they can identify potential risks and know what to do about them.
The concept of digital citizenship i.e. Digital Access, Digital Literacy, Digital Communication, Digital Commerce, Digital Etiquette, Digital Health and Wellness, Digital Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities, Digital Security and Digital Law has emerged as a useful framework of various aspects that need to be established and reinforced in the education sector at the earliest.
Superintendent of Police Cybercrime Kashmir also suggests that one should use the internet very sensibly as cyberspace is an open platform, and people should resist sharing personal information and must remember nothing is free.
Educational institutions, which are trusted to safeguard students’ safety should have a robust cyber security infrastructure that cuts down all risks and leaves no scope for breaches.
These institutions must understand that cyber security is not just crucial to protect against economic loss and avoid disruption but also vital to protect students from any kind of harm. Central Institute of Educational Technology (CIET), NCERT has developed ‘Be safe in Cyber World’ a series of Booklets on Cyber Safety & Security.
Besides, guidelines of cyber safety and security for adolescents and girls have also been made available by CIET. These Booklets covered all the four aspects i.e. the technical, social, legal and ethical aspects of living in a digital world. Educational Institutions must make these available and share the resource with parents, teachers and students. (https://ciet.nic.in/pages.php?id=booklet-on-cyber-safetysecurity&ln=en&ln=en)
The education sector needs to secure its applications and systems and overcome any challenges that come in the way of cyber security. With the growing Need, Threats, Challenges and necessity there is a great need to have quality educators or experts in the field of Education who can be made instrumental by various capacity building Programmes in Cyber Security and who can be contributive in developing and escalating awareness among students and parents about threats, challenges prevention and reporting.
Schools should create a policy about internet usage. Lay everything out in clear, easy-to-understand terms. Describe how schools expect the students to use the internet, what they should avoid and how they should communicate with others online. This policy should be shared with the students.
A school must also keep itself up to date about online developments, and make sure that students can come to teachers about any concerns they have. The more schools know, the more it can help. Schools should develop protection and detection measures like:
• Invest in a robust firewall.
• Have students and teachers create strong passwords.
• Have a password protocol that specifies strong password guidelines, frequent change of passwords, avoid reuse of old passwords.
• Use only verified open source or licensed software and operating systems.
• Ensure computer systems and laboratories are accessed only by authorized personnel.
• Discourage use of personal devices on the network, such as personal USBs or hard drives.
• Set up your computer for automatic software and operating system updates.
• Check that antivirus software in each system is regularly updated.
• Consider blocking of file extensions such as .bat, .cmd, .exe, .pif by using content filtering software.
• Institute two or multi-factor authentication for students, teachers and administrators when they log on.
• Protect your Wi-Fi Connection with secure password, WEP encryption, etc. Encrypt the network traffic.
• Change the administrator’s password from the default password. If the wireless network does not have a default password, create one and use it to protect the network.
• Disable file sharing on computers.
• Turn off the network during extended periods of non-use etc.
• Use "restricted mode", "safe search", "supervised users" and other similar filters and monitoring systems, so that no child can access harmful content via the school’s IT systems and any concerns can be detected quickly.
The best way of protecting oneself from cybercriminal attacks is and remains regular system updates and making PC users aware of this.
Governments around the world are bringing more attention to cybercrimes. In this regard The Ministry of Home Affairs is implementing a scheme, for school students of Classes 6 to 11 and above, called the ‘Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Center (14C)’ to deal with cybercrimes in a coordinated and comprehensive manner.
The Ministry has also developed a ‘National Cybercrime Reporting Portal’ for ease of filling of complaints relating to cybercrimes by citizens on “anywhere, anytime” basis. Reporting has also been simplified by Online Cyber Crime reporting portal, (www.cybercrime.gov.in). Cyber bullying can be reported on https://cyberbaap.org/cyberbullying/reporting/.
A Cyber Crime awareness campaign has been launched through twitter handle (@CyberDost). Besides each district of JK UT has a cyber-cell for reporting cyber frauds. These Cyber Cells forward received complaints to Cyber Crime Police Station Kashmir at Srinagar where cognizance of all the complaints and facilitation of cyber safety and cyber hygiene takes place.
The author is Senior Academic Officer/Head\ Education Communication Technology & Computer Science SCERT JK (K)
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.