Malwarebytes finds schools, students underprepared for pandemic cybersecurity

The latest report of Malwarebytes, a provider of advanced endpoint protection and remediation solutions, uncovered that cybersecurity preparation made a significant difference in a school’s ability to weather a cybersecurity event. The report titled “Lessons learned: How education coped in the shift to distance learning” details data from 500 students and 75 IT decision-makers at educational institutions.

The report hopes to shed light on the state of cybersecurity in education during the COVID-19 pandemic. It contains startling findings including a stark lack of training for the new learning environments and a large discrepancy between student and IT decision-maker experiences with cyber events such as cyberattacks.

For respondents who engaged in a variety of cybersecurity best practices before transitioning to a distance learning model, none suffered a cyberattack, and none canceled a single day of distance learning because of a cyberattack.

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“Students during the pandemic are struggling with digital access, engagement, and a severe sense of isolation,” said Marcin Kleczynski, CEO of Malwarebytes. “Cybersecurity should be the least of their concerns, and yet, it’s concerning to find that nearly half of educational institutions show a lack of preparedness. It is essential that schools and all organizations stop viewing cybersecurity as an afterthought; protecting our students and their data online should be a top priority for educators.”

The report also said that 18.2% of more well-prepared respondents said “teachers or students have suffered a Zoom-bombing attack” compared to 29.3% of all respondents.

The report revealed major inconsistencies in the perceived experiences between IT decision-makers and students. A remarkably low number of IT decision-makers said their schools suffered a cyberattack (just 2.7%) and yet, 46.2% of students said their schools suffered a cyberattack. This statistic of students experiencing a cyberattack is even more important as they look to enroll in universities or private schools because 61% of students reported that a cyberattack resulted in a significant or strong impact on their trust in their school.

Distance learning

Nearly three quarters (70.7%) of schools deployed new software needed for distance learning, such as Zoom, Remind, and Google Classroom.

In preparing for the new school year, 30.7% of schools admitted to not being able to provide for all teachers, administrators, and staff members to work remotely, while 45.3 % of schools could not provide all the devices needed for every student to attain an equal quality of education

For this report, Malwarebytes conducted two parallel surveys. The first survey targeted 75 IT decision-makers at educational institutions across the United States. The second survey targeted 500 students enrolled in K–12; students working on obtaining a bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree, or attending trade school; and students enrolled in any post-graduate program in the US.

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