August marks the beginning of back-to-school. With more schools and educational institutions implementing technology inside classrooms, how prepared are we to deal with online threats? Today, we’re looking at the latest threats targeting the education industry as well as how common programs used in classrooms, like Microsoft Excel, can be compromised.
Latest Malware Threats
Based on a report by Mimecast, botnets, ransomware and phishing emails are the latest malware threats targeting a variety of professional industries. When they looked at attacks between April and June 2019 it was reported that the Professional Education sector has nearly 9x as many attacks as compared to the average sector.
Emotet and Adwind are two Trojan viruses that are often unknowingly, yet willingly, downloaded by computer users. As their name suggests, they are like the story of the Trojan Horse and are most commonly bundled with free downloads from the internet, such as games, emails, or a disguised legitimate file.
Gandcrab is a ransomware virus that puts a lock on your files and changes their extensions. Like other ransomware viruses, it is labeled as ransomware due to the way it keeps your personal data captive and demands a ransom in return. Once a computer has been infected with ransomware, no one – not even the F.B.I. — can restore the files.
Necurs is one of the largest botnet operations in the world. It is able to spread malware quickly over a large number of computers. As a result, it is indirectly responsible for a major chunk of cybercrime.
Plus now we’re seeing an increase in the number of impersonation email attacks. The attacker engages the user by impersonating co-workers and superiors via email and then asking you to do random or odd tasks. The end goal here is to get personal information, spread malware, and receive financial gains.
How the Education Sector is Affected
In the first half of 2019, the Professional Education sector is the top industry targeted by attackers, with users here seeing almost nine times more attacks than average!
This is likely due to the Education Industry having a constantly changing student population who are unlikely to have high-security awareness. As a result, it is much easier for attackers to gain access to personal data.
As it turns out, Microsoft Office is one of the most common programs that are targeted by attackers, with Excel files ending in .xlsm being the most popular. This makes sense as almost everyone in the education industry – students and professors alike – would need to use Microsoft Excel on a daily basis.
How To Protect Yourself
If you, or someone you know, is heading back to school make sure they understand the basics of avoiding online threats by sharing this article. Also:
- Check all email attachments before opening them to make sure they’re from a legitimate sender.
- Do not open any attachments that are from unknown senders or unfamiliar email addresses.
- If you receive a suspicious email from your boss or co-worker, double-check the sender’s email address before replying. Most of the time, the impersonation email’s address will be different than your boss or co-worker’s actual work email address.
We also recommend using an antivirus program like McAfee Total Protection:
- Side step phishing attacks before they happen with clear warnings of risky websites, links, and files.
- Secure your firewall and block hackers from accessing your home network.
- Prevent viruses, malware, and ransomware from infecting your PC, Mac, and mobile devices.
- It protects all the devices you own (Windows, Mac OS, iPhone and Android).
And lastly, use a FixMeStick to get rid of any viruses that may be hidden in those Excel files or have snuck past the first line of defense.
Have a question? Leave it in the comments below. And don’t forget to share with a friend to keep everyone safe this back-to-school-season!