This past spring, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, online learning became the new norm as universities and classrooms around the world were forced to close their doors. By April 29, 2020, more than 1.2 billion children across 186 countries were impacted by school closures.

Shortly after schools began to transition to emergency remote learning, it became clear that many were not ready for the kind of full-time, digital education now needed. Not all students had the technology that was required, from laptops to a stable Internet connection, and parents and instructors in countries like the United States worried students would inevitably fall behind academically. What is more, many educational institutions did not have proper cybersecurity measures in place, putting online classrooms at increased risks of cyberattacks.

In fact, in June, Microsoft Security Intelligence reported that the education industry accounted for 61 percent of the 7.7 million malware encounters experienced by enterprises in the previous 30 days – more than any other sector.

As fall approaches, digital learning will continue to be a necessity. In fact, half of all U.S. elementary and high school students will be entirely online. Even those that are reopening are deploying some kind of hybrid model, such as delivering large lectures online. What’s more, the threat of a second coronavirus wave still remains, meaning that future large-scale school closures are still a possibility.

Online learning is not a short-term response to a global pandemic. It is here to stay.

However, as long as online learning continues to grow in popularity, cybercriminals will attempt to exploit this fact for their own gain. That means educational organizations will continue to face a growing number of cyber risks – into this fall and beyond. Fortunately, engaging – and secure – online academic experiences are possible. Educational institutions just need to review their cybersecurity programs and adopt appropriate measures to better secure their online learning environments and resources.

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For statistics on DDoS, phishing and other threats to online education, check out the full report on Secure List.

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