For some schools, the usage of technology like computers, chrome books, and tablets were being utilized before the start of pandemic related remote learning. Lockdowns accelerated the need for technology in and out of the classroom. Today, kids are back in the classroom, but technology and the use of the internet are still playing a dominant role in learning. As schools have embraced more technology, they have also become more aware of cybersecurity threats that occur because of it.
Schools face many types of cyber attacks. Ransomware and phishing are two very common ones but there is a new threat from distributed denial of service attacks that are becoming more and more relevant. DDoS attacks attack a school’s network which results in learning disruptions and the ability to process data. One of the worst things about DDoS attacks is that they are very easy to execute. There have been several cases where children as young as nine have pulled off a DDoS attack against their school.
Read on to learn why schools are an easy target for DDoS attacks.
What is a DDoS attack?
DDoS stands for distributed denial of service attack. It is a cyber attack that is an attempt to disrupt the normal traffic of a targeted server, service, or network by overwhelming it with traffic. DDOS attacks achieve their effectiveness by targeting multiple compromised computer systems. The attack can also affect anything on the network such as IOT devices.
Why are DDoS attacks such a threat to schools?
Schools are particularly vulnerable to DDoS attacks because many of them rely on online resources such as websites and learning management systems. These things provide students with access to valuable information and resources. When a DDOS attack occurs against a school, the systems which help students learn and teachers teach are compromised. They can also eliminate the ability to process new admissions and disable the functions needed to accept charitable donations. Both of these things can lead to a significant loss in revenue as well as reputation.
How does a DDoS attack work?
Computers and other devices are infected with a type of malware that allows them to be controlled remotely by an attacker. When these devices are infected, they are referred to as bots. If a group of devices gets infected, it is called a botnet. Once a botnet is established, the attacker can execute an attack by sending remote instructions to each bot.
Why are DDoS attacks dangerous for schools?
DDoS attacks are ranked as one of the top four cybersecurity threats of our time. They are considered to be as destructive as social engineering attacks, ransomware, and supply chain attacks. One of the most dangerous things about them is that they are not used to directly breach the security of a website or server; they are used as a screen to hide other types of attacks and malicious activities. Another thing that makes them dangerous is that the attacks are often smaller (1GB or less) sneakier, and more silent. There is also a very high cost to the post-incidence response and recovery from DDOS attacks. The cost of DDoS attacks is ranked as one of the top four cybersecurity threats of our time. They are considered to be as destructive as social engineering attacks, ransomware, and supply chain attacks.
One of the most dangerous things about them is that they are not used to directly breach the security of a website or server; they are used as a screen to hide other types of attacks and malicious activities. Another thing that makes them dangerous is that the attacks are often smaller (1GB or less) sneakier, and more silent. There is also a very high cost to the post-incidence response and recovery from DDoS attacks. The cost of financial and reputational damage from these attacks is estimated at $120,000 for small businesses and $2 million or more for larger companies.
Are students able to execute DDoS attacks?
It was originally thought that many DDoS attacks on schools were perpetrated by cyber criminals, however, new analysis has shown that students are responsible for some of these attacks. One theory from the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit is that children can be tempted into DDoS attacks by playing online games and then using mods, hacks, and remote access trojans to win against their gaming rivals. Once they have figured these attacks out, it can be very easy for them to learn how to execute an attack on a school. When the DDoS attack takes place, the school’s network goes down and that makes it very easy for students to get out of classes and tests. DDoS attacks were common when students were remote learning during the pandemic. Remote learning is done over a network connection and when the network is disabled from a DDoS attack, no learning can take place.
How can schools prevent DDoS attacks?
The best way that schools can prevent DDoS attacks is to use network redundancy, next generation firewalls, and layered approaches to cybersecurity. Network redundancy is a communications pathway that has additional links to connect all nodes in case one link goes down. Tekscape offers SD-WAN (software defined wide area network) technology to create network redundancy.
In the event of a DDoS attack, SD-WAN solutions can detect the outage and reroute traffic to an alternate path with no downtime. Next generation firewalls can monitor traffic and look for patterns of DDoS attacks coming and then block them, but it is important to remember that firewalls cannot stop attacks that appear to be normal traffic. This is why using additional layers of cybersecurity is so important in preventing DDoS attacks on schools.