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Avoiding cybersecurity attacks during online learning

Posted at 1:44 PM, Sep 07, 2020

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - On the eve of the first day of school laptops are charging and brains are resting, but somewhere criminals are waiting for an opportunity to hack your computer.

This year, they may be looking to pry on vulnerable students like Virginia Beach first-grader, Abigail.

"We teach our kids how to prevent from getting people to hack into our system that shouldn't be there," said her Mom, Chrissi.

Chrissi isn't naive to the risks associated with virtual learning: phishing emails, information stealing and even video hackers.

To keep a close eye on things, Chrissi said, "I usually sit with my daughter when she is on video chat so that I can monitor and I know if there's somebody coming into the video chat that shouldn't be there."

She said she has already heard firsthand stories of individual Zoom meetings being hacked.

Cybersecurity expert at Old Dominion University, Ariel Pinto, said the first step in staying safe is talking to your kids.

"In the same way that parents would tell children not to open up their doors or windows to strangers - it's the same way that they shouldn't [click on links that don't come directly from teachers or download software that the school didn't approve of]," he said.

He also said that misspellings on emails can be a red flag.

"[The people who create phishing emails] just want to make this fast. They want to make [the message] look urgent and that is what gets us to click without doing our due diligence," Pinto said.

He said a quick call to a teacher or fellow-parent to verify can save a lot of headaches down the line.

School-issued computers and laptops typically have protections in place, but experts recommend covering your camera when it's not being used, removing personal information from your kids virtual background and not saving important passwords on the desktop.

With this advice, Chrissi said Abigail is ready to take on the first grade, "it's just being alert as a parent and making sure that you monitor your child as much as you can. All those parents that are out there, hang in there. It will get better, it will get better."

If you have any further concerns with online intruders, reach out to your child's school or IT department.