How to Stay Secure While Distance Learning: Don’t Get Schooled by Hackers

By on Apr 22, 2020

Many students hold their college experience near and dear to their hearts. Apart from working towards a degree and a desired career path, students rely on college to make lifelong friends and gain a heightened sense of responsibility and independenceBut due to recent circumstances, many college students had this experience interrupted or put on pause. With many schools closed for the remainder of the year, college students have moved from in-person course work to virtual classrooms, or distance learningDistance learning has consequentially led to a rapid uptick in online learning among college students. But as more students continue their curriculum from home and online activity increasesthe need for enhanced security increases as well.  

Video Lectures

The transition to distance learning has led to many teachers and schools turning to online video conferencing tools to conduct virtual lectures. However, many of these tools have proven to lack the necessary security measures. As we’ve previously discussed, many users have been found sharing their meeting links on social media platforms like Twitter. This could allow an attacker to simply click on one of these links and interrupt an online lecture or club meeting with inappropriate content. As a result, students could lose valuable time meant to be spent toward their education. And while some schools have banned some online conferencing tools from being used for distance learning, it’s important for students to stay educated on the various security risks involved with video lectures, whether their school has provided guidelines or not.  

Connected Devices & Home Networks

Many schools and universities have asked for students to move out of their on-campus housing for the remainder of the school year. Moving off campus means that the devices and school networks provided by a campus may no longer be available to students. While many students already leverage their personal device for schoolwork, this situation makes those devices the only option.  

Additionally, much like those who have made the transition to working from home, using personal devices on home networks could pose a variety of threats. Students are moving from their universities’ professionally managed networks to home Wi-Fi setups protected with basic passwords, which are usually more easily infiltrated by hackers. Once a hacker gains access to a student’s home network, they have the opportunity to exploit other devices connected to the Wi-Fi.  

How to Secure Your Virtual Classroom

So, what can students do to help ensure that their path towards a degree isn’t interrupted by the adoption of distance learning? Taking online security seriously is the perfect place to start. Here are some tips to help ensure that learning from home goes as smoothly as possible.  

Choose an Encrypted Online Conferencing Tool

Does the video conferencing tool you’re considering use end-to-end encryption? This ensures that only meeting participants have the ability to decrypt secure meeting content. Additionally, be sure to read the privacy policies listed by the video conferencing programs to find the one that is the most secure and fits your needs.   

Use a VPN

Avoid hackers infiltrating your network by using a VPNwhich allows you to send and receive data while encrypting, or scrambling, your information so others can’t read itBy helping to protect your network, VPNs also prevent hackers from gaining to other devices connected to your Wi-Fi.  

Take Password Protection Seriously.

Take the time to secure your devices and home network with unique, complex passwords. Many users, including students, utilize the same password, or variations of it, across all their accounts. This means if a hacker discovers just one password, all personal data is suddenly at risk. Therefore, it is crucial to diversify your passcodes to ensure hackers cannot obtain access to all your accounts at once, should one password be compromised. You can also employ a password manager to keep track of your credentials.  

Enable Two-Factor or Multi-Factor Authentication

Two or multi-factor authentication provides an extra layer of security, as it requires multiple forms of verification. This reduces the risk of successful impersonation by hackers. 

Stay Educated on Security Precautions

As you adapt to learning from home, you’ll likely consider downloading various online tools to help make the transition easier. Before downloading the first tools you see, do your research and check for possible security vulnerabilities or known threats 

Stay Updated

To stay updated on all things McAfee and for more resources on staying secure from home, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook. 

 

About the Author

Judith Bitterli

Judith Bitterli currently serves as Vice President of Consumer Marketing at McAfee. She is a passionate advocate for online security, family safety and safeguarding our digital experiences. She has been in the security space for eight years and technology for over thirty years. She brings to her work a fundamental belief that online security is ...

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