Threat Actors Target Students With Malware Disguised as Textbooks, Essays

September 4, 2019 @ 12:45 PM
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2 min read

Attackers launched 356,000 attempts to target users with school-themed malware files during the 2018–19 academic year.

Kaspersky Lab took a look back at the 2018–19 academic year and observed 356,000 instances in which bad actors attempted to target its users with school- and student-themed malware attacks.

Researchers determined that 233,000 of those attempts were instances in which 74,000 Kaspersky customers downloaded malicious school essays, and 122,000 attacks in which over 30,000 users tried to download what they thought were textbooks. English language and math textbooks were some of the top subjects attackers exploited to prey on students, but threat actors also used natural sciences and foreign languages as lures for their fake academic texts.

The researchers found that some malware families were more prevalent than others in these attacks. The Worm.Win32 Stalk.a worm earned the top spot for its ability to spread to other devices via the local network and email. In second place was Win32.Agent.ifdx, followed by WinLNK.Agent.gen and the MediaGet torrent app downloader in third and fourth places, respectively.

A Larger Effort to Target the Education Sector

The attack attempts detected by Kaspersky Lab factor into criminals’ ongoing efforts to target the education sector with malware.

Back in May 2019, Coventry Local Schools canceled classes for a day after Trickbot affected its network. In July, the governor of Louisiana declared a state of emergency after three separate school districts reported digital infections, as reported by AP News. That was just a few days before Houston County Schools told WTVY it had pushed back the first day of classes for the 2019–20 academic school year for the second time in a week following a ransomware attack.

Protecting Students Against School-Themed Malware

Security professionals can help protect students against school-themed malware by using the buy-in of school administrators to build a security awareness training program for the student populace. To make the program successful, security personnel can use tools such as the NIST Framework and gamification to cater to the culture of their school’s student body.

David Bisson
Contributing Editor

David Bisson is an infosec news junkie and security journalist. He works as Contributing Editor for Graham Cluley Security News and Associate Editor for Trip...
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