Singapore schools get a gift but they need to be vigilant

Image credit | SbytovaMN

Singapore is often held up as an example of how technology and (more importantly) innovation can help address life’s challenges.

One example is the Singapore Government’s announcement that it has stepped up to the challenge in education by promising that every student will receive a laptop or tablet by 2021, seven years ahead of its original target.

This has to be good news and will go some way to offset the damage COVID-19 is doing to the education system and the ‘real learning’ that happens when people meet and interact.

There is, of course, a downside.

As with the new challenges of remote working, cybersecurity becomes a major issue. As with remote working, more vigilance and control is needed from IT managers whose job it now is to keep the ship afloat and free from attack.

Cybersecurity company Sophos has identified three main areas which will leave schools open to attack if they are not vigilant. And not just in Singapore.

The first is a lack of skilled IT staff. As Sumit Bansal, Senior Director of ASEAN and Korea at Sophos says, “There is a high chance that there aren’t sufficient resources allocated to looking after the schools’ network security, device management, and endpoint security policies – leaving the door wide open for cybercriminals to exploit weaknesses in the cybersecurity infrastructure to infect the network.”

And that door can allow in all manner of danger. Primary among them is the rise of phishing scams since the beginning of the virus, which are a threat to students and teachers alike. The key to defending against these is education, teaching students (and teachers) how to identify such tricks and how to mitigate the risk. This, of course, is made more difficult by the lack of IT staff, particularly as the scams themselves are becoming ever more sophisticated and convincing.

The vulnerabilities in a school’s defences can, in turn, lead to it being the target of advanced malware attacks (on the rise in Asia Pacific), which can take the form of account takeovers or the theft of sensitive information. And, as Bansal says, “this gives cybercriminals the chance to access a school’s networks and launch a ransomware attack to take control of sensitive data.”

Education is the key to keeping schools – and not just the students – safe in the new world of COVID-19 cyberattacks. Indeed, it might just be that the increased threat level during the crisis will lead to a robust and tech savvy generation who are better prepared to keep their online lives safe.

As long as the security issues are addressed, we may well hold Singapore up as an example of how to maintain and improve education during a crisis.

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