Cybercriminals have used malware and software through downloaded educational materials to cause more than 1,000 cyber attacks on students globally.
In data collected by Atlas VPN, pupils illegally downloaded 234,000 essays, all containing hidden malware, with another 122,000 malware-infected textbooks also being accessed.
Malware is downloaded through different types of educational resources, from math textbooks to dictionaries, the most popular being English textbooks. 2,080 unique cases were reported in the previous academic year, with 1,213 math textbooks also containing the malicious software. Data also shows 870 downloads of infected literature.
In 35.5% of the 356,000 attacks, the malware contained a Stalk Worm named ‘Worm.Win32 Stalk.a’.
The digital worm spreads through all devices connected to it. Most commonly, a student carries the worm via a USB drive from their own computer to their school’s computers.
The source of the data, Kaspersky, said: “Stalk is dangerous not only because of its ability to spread itself over a local network and by e-mail, but also because it can download other malicious applications to the infected device, and copy and send files from victims’ computers to the malware owners.
“The Stalk worm is still able to thrive largely because educational institutions in general, and their printer systems in particular, often use hopelessly outdated versions of operating systems and other software. This allows the worm to continue to spread.”
After infecting the school’s network, the worm can steal the data of the students, teachers, and administration. Hackers then demand a ransom in exchange for deleting the data or threaten to sell it on the black market.
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Rachel Welsh, COO of Atlas VPN, commented: “Attacking schools is convenient: instead of having to intercept hundreds of devices separately, they hack the whole network.
“Educational institutions should receive proper training in cybersecurity in order to prevent these issues from happening. It should also be ensured that expensive textbooks are accessible for every student, so they do not have to download anything illegally.”
Hackers are becoming increasingly intelligent with the ways in which they hack victims, and they will seemingly target anyone at any time.
It has recently been revealed that hackers could use baby monitors in people’s homes to spy on their activities, and malicious emails containing supposed coronavirus information from medical professionals is also becoming more common.