Online Learning

How to secure students’ digital accounts used for online learning

As the Philippine education sector shifts to a hybrid form of learning — online and printed materials — internet security should also be on top of the priorities. Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky shares some tools and checklist for parents, educators, and guardians that must first look into.

Practicing cyber hygiene should be more emphasized, recommends Kaspersky. Using stronger passwords, two-factor authentication, and virtual private networks (VPNs) are among the top 3 security tools to use, the firm said.

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Stronger password and 2F authentication

For each person using the same device in one household, Kaspersky recommends that each user account should have his or her own separate password.

Experts at Kaspersky recommend that kids never create usernames out of their real names that may reveal their other personally identifiable information (PII) such as location or age.

Enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) is like having a door with two locks in the account login process: one is a traditional password and the second one could be something else. When enabled, it means that hackers have to figure out the password and be in possession of the device to be able to login into the account. Second authentications are usually codes sent via email or SMS. And there are also authenticator apps and hardware tokens that provide more features and useful options.

For children going back to school soon, this additional layer of security will have to be enabled on their primary and secondary emails as well as on their social media accounts which are being required by teachers for them to be able to join online classes. Parents or guardians meanwhile would find that two-factor authentication will be useful to be used on their online bank accounts as well as device accounts such as for iOS and Android gadgets.

What’s a VPN and how does it work?

Another security tool that is often overlooked is the VPN (virtual private network), which works by encrypting the online presence.

A VPN masks the IP address by rerouting it through a specially configured remote server run by the VPN host, where the VPN server becomes the source of data. This makes it impossible for an internet service provider or any other third party to see what websites you are visiting or what information you are entering.

A VPN also works like a filter that turns all the data users are sending and receiving into gibberish. Even if someone did get their hands on this data, it would be useless.

Web-savvy users utilize VPNs for these top four reasons:

  • Security for protection against phishing, man-in-the-middle attacks, etc.
  • Privacy to prevent spying and data theft
  • Changing/hiding the virtual location so that the websites a user connects to can only see the VPN server’s IP address and location, not the user’s
  • Bypass local bans and blocks so a user can still access websites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Wikipedia in countries where these are restricted
  • Longtime internet users have found that VPNs have been one of the best ways to protect online privacy and hide personal information from prying eyes.

In a Kaspersky survey, 54%% of Southeast Asian internet users are currently using VPNs from their trusted VPN providers. The same survey revealed that the respondents’ common reasons for using VPNs are to use online services or sites that are not available in their respective countries (66%), to hide their web history and online activities (47%), to protect their data from cybercriminals (50%), and to access school networks, computers or servers remotely (33%).

Secure browsing

Using a VPN is worth considering if users regularly connect to public Wi-Fi networks. Potential data hackers can steal from users include passwords, personal data, payment information, even one’s whole identity.

As of June 30 this year, some 4,248 of the target 23,100 Wi-Fi hotspots have already been installed under the Free Wi-Fi for All program of the Philippine government.

As more live sites are being deployed particularly within public school locations to support the new normal approach in learning, VPNs would come in handy.

How do I get a VPN on my system?

There are different ways to implement a VPN. One is to get standalone which is advisable for home and small businesses. VPN extensions can also be added to most web browsers while others like Opera come with their own already built-in.

Having several devices to a single internet connection would work best with a router VPN. Large enterprises have their VPNs customized. A number of VPN options are also available for mobile devices.

Security software providers like Kaspersky also provide comprehensive solutions with VPN features such as Kaspersky Total Security, which guarantees maximum security.

The VPN feature of this multi-device family security solution uses an “encrypted tunnel” to help protect the data a user send and receive online. It helps them to hide browsing history — even from their own internet service provider — and stop hackers from reading emails, bank details, and personal data.

VPN providers

Free VPNs do exist, but they are usually not as secure as paid options are. Users must also be sure to choose a VPN provider to trust and which has invested in the most secure solutions. If the VPN provider is compromised, the users and their data will be too.

“Filipino children and their families, just like their counterparts in other parts of the world, are now bracing for a different learning experience,” said Mary Grace Sotayco, Kaspersky territory manager for the Philippines. “To succeed in the new way of learning, browsing the internet safely and privately will have to be a part of their new student life. By incorporating the security practices of using stronger passwords, 2FA, and VPN into their digital life, it will be easier to just focus on learning and not really think about getting into trouble.”

The latest version of Kaspersky Total Security is available in the Philippines for PC and Mac, and retails for P1,390 from leading IT stores nationwide.

Article updated Sept. 26.