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  • Guest Blog, Pascal Geenens: The rise in students hacking school databases…

    800 450 Jack Wynn

    You might be surprised at who is behind the most recent cases of cyber-attacks on schools. Would you guess that in many instances, it’s the students themselves? There are many reasons why students would want to launch an attack against their own school, and it’s actually becoming a larger problem across the globe with cases reported in the US, Japan, Australia and India.

    Here are some of the top reasons why students have been launching attacks on schools:

    It’s fun

    Who wouldn’t be intrigued by the idea of trying to hack into their school, with all its records at their disposal? With many schools now electing to have students submit assignments digitally and take exams online, some would find it fun to shut down the system so they and their classmates won’t have to submit their work or take a test. Others may just want to play a joke by defacing the school website.

    Revenge

    In some cases, the reason for hacking is as simple as wanting to get back at the school for bestowing punishment upon the student. Disrupting normal operations, thinking they won’t get caught, holds an allure.

    Changing grades

    For those who are struggling with coursework or may have flunked an important exam or submitted a hastily put together dissertation, the temptation to hack lies in the ability to change their grades to more favourable ones. Not wanting to bring home a poor report is a key motivation in younger students. Students of all ages will see a hack as a way to avoid this.

    To change attendance

    For the truants out there, hacking provides a way for them to change their attendance records and erase the fact they did not attend school.

    As a dare

    We all like having bragging rights. For students, responding to a dare is often the way to do it. If they don’t, they face bullying and teasing from classmates over not succeeding.

    So how do they do it? Most educational facilities have migrated to digital platforms, and these online portals are prime targets for attacks.

    Technology is great and streamlines workflow, but presents a larger issue if knocked offline. If these portals go down, they prevent students from being able to perform many actions, like submitting their work. This is a huge issue with schools going digital. Schools are quick to incorporate the newest technology but often do not consider the risks.

    One of the biggest security risks that school network face is from their students and the devices they bring with them. Students bring a considerably large amount of devices, ranging from personal computers and tablets to mobile phones and gaming consoles.

    These devices often connect to the school’s network and open a huge range of vulnerabilities. The activities that some students engage in, such as online gaming, can also bring a risk of malware or even denial of service attacks.

    Part of the issue is the ease in which students can now access the Darknet, and the increasingly low costs to hire someone to hack the system for them. Digital marketplace vendors on the Darknet offer cyber services such as grade changes and distributed denial of service (DDos) attacks for very little money.

    This makes it increasingly easy for non-hackers to carry out an attack or cause damage to a school’s resources. In addition to these services, a potential attacker can rent other attacks such as botnets or stresser services for Bitcoin.

    It’s scary stuff, but there are steps that schools can take to protect themselves. They key is a hybrid security solution that combines on-premise detection and mitigation with cloud-based protection, so attack traffic can be identified and blocked before it causes downtime. A trusted security specialist will be able to advise further on the best way to ensure service availability.

    It may seem extreme, but students have come a long way from slingshots and peashooters, with many choosing cyber attacks as their weapon of choice. It’s up to schools to make sure they are just as innovative with their defences.

     

    As a security evangelist for Radware, Pascal helps execute the company’s thought leadership on today’s security threat landscape. Pascal brings over two decades of experience in many aspects of information technology and holds a degree in Civil Engineering from the Free University of Brussels.

    AUTHOR

    Jack Wynn

    All stories by: Jack Wynn