Hackers see opportunity in kids going to school online this fall

Cybersecurity experts say the pandemic created a ripe environment for hackers, allowing for a surge in cyber attacks.

Data analysis from VMware showed large scale data breaches up nearly 300 percent. And with more people working from home and students starting e-learning this fall, experts are warning about security.

The FBI said the number of internet crime complaints so far this year is almost equal to what was reported the entire year in 2019.

“I think there’s more instances simply because there’s more of an opportunity.  Because of the dramatic increase in the people who are working from home now, you have a lot more potential targets that are out there,” said FBI Tampa Special Agent Andrew Sekela.

Agent Sekela said the quick shift to remote work likely put companies at risk.

“One of the concerns or considerations that a lot of companies and government agencies didn’t take into account was they sent all these people and told them to work from home, but they didn’t necessarily equip them with the tools they need to protect themselves,” said Sekela.

Cybersecurity experts said you should update your anti-virus software, make sure it’s installed properly, and make sure your network is secure.

“You can change the password on the WiFi, so you don’t have to worry about that having gotten out or not using the default password that it comes with,” said Patrick Craven, the director of the Center for Cyber Safety and Education. “VPNs or virtual private networks are another great way to add a layer of protection.”

Many workers are also using video platforms for meetings, and Cyber Florida said you should check the security settings.

“As we know with Zoom for example, a lot of instances in the beginning with Zoom bombing, and that was a whole thing. They did a remarkable job addressing those issues quickly and updating those security protocols,” said Kate Whitaker, a spokesperson with Cyber Florida.

Then there’s online learning for students this fall. Hillsborough County and Pinellas County school districts told FOX13 they have firewalls, internet content filtering and restricted email set up on student devices. But no matter what device a child uses, experts said adults should educate their children.

“Parents need to be especially careful about what activity their children are going to be involved with since they’re going to be spending that much more time on the internet if they’re involved in e-learning,” said Sekela.

Cybersecurity experts emphasize that hackers and scammers are using these well-known techniques, like emails, calls, text messages, but they are using variations of them to look different.