Hacking concerns in the age of virtual learning

Updated: Sep. 10, 2020 at 6:09 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - With more students learning online, that also means there are more targets for hackers.

“Attackers are always around. Always looking for ways to infiltrate networks,” says information technology expert, Will Spencer.

Around the country, some online classes have already been hit by hackers, and Spencer says that cybersecurity should be an around-the-clock priority.

“I think its a 24/7 thing, 365 days a year to protect your network. It’s something they should be proactively doing.”

In Toledo, Ohio, a hacker posted racial and sexually inappropriate messages in the virtual classroom of an elementary school.

“We are now working with a forensic cybersecurity team,” Patty Mazur with the Toledo Public Schools District told WTVG.

Meanwhile, in Charlotte, North Carolina, students were able to get control of a virtual lesson and post sexually explicit content.

“Not just my 11-year-old, but other 11-year-olds in that classroom being exposed to that type of material, I just couldn’t believe something like this could happen," said parent Donald Minor told WBTV.

Spencer says not all hackers are malicious, and that some simply hack for fun - to be able to prove to themselves that they can get through any system, but you should always stay alert, as he warns there are some hackers "that are trying to do evil: get that information to the dark web where they can sell it.”

He believes that virtual learning can work, citing online colleges that have operated that way for years, but says that "no network is perfect, everyone is going to be vulnerable somewhere.”

As for local school districts, RPS says they use Google Classrooms, which can only be accessed by students and teachers that have school district emails. Henrico County uses Microsoft Teams for their district, adding that they had assurances directly from Microsoft that their network is secure. Chesterfield County Public Schools that it does not use Zoom and their system is named Rapid Identity.

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