In their online education experience, students and professors can face various risks, like cyberbullying, harassment, the danger of unintentionally publishing private information, and phishing, which is defined by cybersecurity professionals as the use of emails or messages to trick people into revealing personal information that can compromise their online financial accounts, or clicking on malicious links or attachments and unintentionally downloading malware.

Experts specialized in distance education and cybersecurity advise institutions, professors and students to follow some basic guidelines to ensure privacy, protect and monitor personal data, and prevent hacking online educational platforms, as well as some best practices for safety in online communications.

Universities should support cybersecurity and privacy on their platforms and means of communication with their students by implementing plans to always update their programs, and purchase advanced versions of communication software rather than the free versions, as the advanced versions allow longer meetings and provide a larger space to upload data.

Students and professors should take some necessary steps. First and foremost among them is to continuously update their computer or smartphone with the latest operating system. This is especially important for Windows users, because that system is more vulnerable to hacking, compared to Apple’s Mac operating system.

Installing Linux on computers, an open-source operating system that enjoys a relatively higher degree of protection compared to the Windows system, besides a periodic updating of antivirus programs, as the continuous use of the same program increases the risk of being exposed to cyberattacks.

Institutions should offer importance of rethinking the entire educational environment, including but not limited to developing the skills and competencies of faculty members; identifying and designing new pedagogical curricula suitable for distance learning; creating an advanced virtual-learning environment; and reconsidering the student overall, including the experience of extracurricular activities.

Students should follow a number of tips to increase their interaction on online educational platforms while maintaining their cybersecurity. These tips include: acquiring technical skills, which include the ability to use programs like MS Office and their institution’s learning-management system, navigating the Internet, using social-media tools, and downloading software.

Educational institutions that manage digital infrastructure have greater responsibilities in ensuring safety. This requires them to take into consideration security while designing a technical strategy for the programs they use or platforms they launch for their students, along with developing a plan to deal with potential attacks.

(This is a truncated article of the original published in Al-Fanar Media. You can read the whole article here: