Why Students Are At Risk of Data Breaches | Microsoft Office Exploit | US Military Hackers Conducting Offensive Operations in Ukraine
Article by Christopher Lauder, Delegate Relationship Executive, Rela8 Group
Why Students Are At Risk of Data Breaches
With schools embracing new technologies, security and privacy have become bigger concerns. Schools now store and share many types of student data on digital platforms, and student data privacy laws have yet to adapt to these new environments. An article on MakeUseOf have listed numerous reasons on why students are at risk.
A report by IBM has ranked education among the top ten most targeted industries for cybercrime for two main reasons.
First, because of the wealth of sensitive information the education sector holds. Information, such as student data, includes names, addresses, birthdays, and financial information which attackers could hold for ransom, or use this information to perform other attacks.
Secondly, schools are often vulnerable. With remote learning platforms seeing a boom due to the Covid Pandemic, the industry hasn’t yet adapted to these technologies’ unique security concerns as many of them are relatively new. These solutions mean that much of this sensitive data is now online, if hackers can get past schools defences, which are often lacking.
These risks were highlighted in the Illuminate Education Breach which took place earlier in 2022. In this breach, attackers were able to gain access to 820,000 current and former students information by hacking into a grade and attendance tracking solution.
In the United States, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requires that schools must gain permission from parents before sharing student records. While this was first introduced in the 1970’s, it is slowly being brought up to date in different states to include reference to cybersecurity. For example, California and Illinois restrict sharing student data with technology companies.
To help address this problem, it is recommended that schools should also be encouraging students to use strong, unique passwords and enable Multi-Factor Authentication. Schools should be advocates for cloud security software, while emphasising its importance in keeping student data safe. similarly, schools should also be using reliable anti-virus software and keep it updated regularly.
Source - Illuminate Education Breach - EdWeek
Microsoft Office Exploit
Researchers from Bitdefender have found that Microsoft Office software could be abused to launch phishing attacks which would be capable of deceiving even the most well-trained of web users.
The researchers uncovered that homograh attacks (attacks which abuse the use of similar-looking characters to deceive people – e.g. Micr0soft) grow much more potent when based on international domain names (IDN), and used against apps other than browsers.
They tested applications on their behaviour when faced with an IDN homograph attack and found that all Microsoft Office applications were vulnerable. But what does this mean?
It means that a threat actor could force Outlook to show a link which looks legitimate, and that the user wouldn’t be able to see there is a difference until the website was opened in their browser. This would, in some cases, be enough to trigger a malware download.
This was reported to Microsoft in October last year; however a patch has not yet been issued.
US Military Hackers Conducting Offensive Operations in Ukraine
Finally, in an exclusive interview with Sky News, the Head of US Cyber Command, General Paul Nakasone, has confirmed for the first time that the United States and their military hackers have conducted a series of operations in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
General Nakasone has said "We've conducted a series of operations across the full spectrum; offensive, defensive, and information operations." Though they did not detail the activities, they explained how they were lawful, conducted with complete civilian oversight of the military and through policy decided at the US Department of Defence.
General Nakasone also explained how separate "hunt forward" operations were allowing the United States to search out foreign hackers and identify their tools before they were used against America. Furthermore, General Nakasone discussed how he is concerned "every single day" about the risk of a Russian cyber-attack targeting the US and said that the hunt forward activities were an effective way of protecting both America as well as allies.