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Children Are the Most Vulnerable Targets for Cyberbullying

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Ram Narayanan, the Country Manager for Check Point Software Technologies Middle East, speaks about the challenges faced by the education sector and how these can be overcome

How has the pandemic affected the education sector in the region?
The pandemic has reshaped and transformed virtually every aspect of working across verticals and education is no exception. Today, with the help of technology, teachers are able to blend in-class instruction with online learning using websites, apps, learning games, collaboration and other tools. Students get instant access to knowledge beyond their textbooks and obtain a holistic view of a subject.

However, the digitally connected classroom also introduces risks when students are online, including:

  1. Inappropriate Content – Potential exposure to offensive, harmful, or inappropriate website content
  2. Cyberbullying – Possible risk of cyberbullying through social networks
  3. Phishing – Unintentional leak of personal information through phishing websites

What sort of opportunities do you see in the regional education sector?
While digitally-connected classrooms give teachers the flexibility to blend traditional teaching methods with modern online resources, the technology is often abused. Children are the most vulnerable targets for cyberbullying and are often exposed to inappropriate online content.

We are also witnessing an increase in the number of unfilled cyber security roles across verticals. So there are two distinct opportunities; providing secure online education to students, and helping shape the cyber-experts of the future while narrowing the cyber skills gap.

Besides, there are regulations like CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act), which states that it is the school’s responsibility to protect students while using school-owned devices, both inside and outside the school. So institutions needs to fulfill their responsibility.

Is there a digital disconnect despite tech tools being available for distance education?
The pandemic has reshaped our online and remote learning models and expedited several years’ worth of IT changes into just a few weeks. When institutions across the globe were plunged into rapid remote learning, students adapted quickly to this model and so did universities and schools.

It is also worth mentioning that educational institutions that weren’t digitally ahead did find it challenging to adapt and prepare for the new normal. However, the rapid shift to a digitally driven platform has created security gaps and opened up school networks to cyber attacks. Governments agencies have issued warning that “schools have long been targets for cyber thieves and criminals”. The Internet must be an asset and not a concern for the education of children.

How can this digital disconnect be bridged?
As institutions scrambled to restructure their network and security environments overnight, the move to the cloud and digital transformation efforts were accelerated. This rapid move resulted in security gaps and new opportunities for cyber criminals.

Institutions now look to close security gaps and secure their networks – from students and teachers PCs and mobiles, to the enterprise data centers and the cloud, with a holistic, end-to-end security architecture.

STEM has risen as the go to stream of education during the pandemic. What importance does STEM have in developing the skillsets of a student?
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics professionals play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of the future. STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy, and enables the next generation of innovators. It also gets students more involved in doing, rather than just learning.

Do you provide solutions today to make STEM learning a seamless experience?
Check Point has partnerships with world-leading online learning platforms. These partnerships offer a growing series of Check Point cyber-security courses and content to security and network professionals. The Check Point Jump Start series of courses is already available online. These are aimed at upskilling security and IT administrators on cyber-threats and security management across mid-size and larger enterprises. The series will soon be augmented with cloud security courses aimed at DevOps and DevSecOps specialists.

Check Point is also committed to providing ongoing education and training to professionals already working in cyber security, as well as to those looking to start a career in the sector. In March 2020, Check Point announced the 100th academic institution has signed up to its SecureAcademy program which offers a comprehensive cyber security curriculum to students, with courses available at over 100 universities in 40 countries. All courses are free of charge to attract more people into the industry, to help reduce the cyber-skills gap.

I strongly believe that, if we are to close the global cyber-security skills gap, we need to make it easier for both professionals and students to access learning materials to help them expand their knowledge at their own pace, and according to their needs.

What about the security aspects of online learning. How can that be addressed?
Check Point have specific solutions for the education sector. SandBlast for Education provides the highest level of security for schools using Google Chromebooks. It is an easy-to-install Chrome browser extension with G-suite integration capabilities, fits into the current cybersecurity infrastructure of schools, and also helps to achieve compliance with CIPA regulations. It allows teachers to supervise their students, monitor online activity, block social media pages with specific or offensive keywords, and prevent students from posting messages with inappropriate content.

SandBlast for Education is highly effective in protecting against phishing attacks and malicious files, it automatically cleans up downloaded documents with potentially malicious content, analyzes threats and converts files to PDF to ensure their security when necessary. The solution includes an anti-bullying feature which blocks keywords and issues an alert to students before they post offensive content. By dynamically detecting and blocking phishing websites, SandBlast for Education prevents students from mistakenly providing their personal and private information to cybercriminals.

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