How malware could be threatening your school

How malware could be threatening your school
A leading malware prevention company has released a security research report analysing the top malware threats of 2017 – and there’s cause for schools to sit up and take notice.

The Malwarebytes Cybercrime Tactics and Techniques: 2017 State of Malware Report revealed sharp increases in malware-based cybercrime, including ransomware, banking Trojans, spyware, adware, and cryptocurrency miners.

The study found a 90% increase in ransomware attacks for businesses and consumers, becoming the fifth-most detected threat.

In Asia Pacific, ransomware (1000% increase), hijacker (522% increase), spyware (200% increase), and worms (50% increase) all increased from 2016.

Jim Cook, regional director, Australia and New Zealand, at ‎Malwarebytes, said the latest report reveals that the education sector needs to stay ahead of cybersecurity threats.

“There is a need to understand cybercriminals’ methodologies and tactics, and replace outdated security systems to avoid becoming the latest victim of an attack,” Cook told The Educator.

“Unfortunately, schools are often the first to see new malware threats emerge because of the way users behave, so AV Signature based technologies are no longer effective.”

Cook said that when students browse the web from unsecure networks in their own time, they often pick up malware and then email or upload their coursework to the secure school network – which then spreads 'infections' to other users.

“Cybercriminals actively target sites where students commonly browse, and they are often completely legitimate sites,” Cook explained.

“A common way to infect one of these sites is through the ads which get served up from a different, less secure source.”

Cook said one interesting component of the report is that although ransomware detections have nearly doubled in our region, their effectiveness, and therefore the financial return has declined significantly because security vendors are increasingly getting ahead of the game.

“This has led to a rise in new ways of using infected PCs, such as hijacking the CPU and memory to mine for cryptocurrency,” he said.

“Mac malware has also become a real risk. For example, a malware called Proton is now in the wild, sitting quietly on unprotected Macs stealing keychain or other password locker trusted details and selling the information on the dark web.”

Malwarebytes recommends all organisations with this kind of open environment invest in an endpoint security solution that uses multiple layers to protect staff and students whether they are working within a secure environment or not.

Technologies such as Web Protection, which blocks known bad websites (or adverts from known bad sources); Application Behaviour monitoring; and anomaly detection, which look for suspicious activity on the computers themselves, are critical to ensuring everyone on campus stays safe and downtime is minimised.

Related stories:
Why the responsibility of schools’ cybersecurity rests with principals
Is your school protected against cyberthreats?