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The Cyberthreats and Digital Poverty in Online Learning
Written by Sean Kim | Published. 2021.04.06 15:04 | Count : 595

Since the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic last March, the governments of numerous countries have implemented lockdown measures, forcing many citizens to become “netizens”. 

Schools were considered dangerous as numerous students gather together in enclosed spaces; thus programs such as Zoom and Google Meet have been widely used. The premise behind using these programs is that security and education for the children is proper: the students’ safety being well kept just like offline schooling.

One must note that breaking into an online meeting is not much different than terrorizing and invading into a school, causing mishap and chaos. Numerous incidents, namely “Zoombombing”, have been a chronic problem for numerous schools; according to Kaspersky, a cyber security company, “...pranksters and ill-intentioned individuals [breaking] into private meetings. Among the victims were schools, with several reported incidents of online classrooms being interrupted… ”

In 2020, the total number of users that encountered various threats disguised as popular online learning platforms jumped to 168,550, a 20,455% increase, according to Kaspersky. Methods malignant internet users use to hack meeting platforms include DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks (which simply means overloading a domain with fake traffic until it denies providing service to users) and phishing websites imitating sites such as below.

[Screenshot of Zoom’s Sign-In Link. Photo Credit: Sean Kim]

I had the opportunity to interview Jacob Helms, an expert in the social sciences field and a teacher of Individuals and Societies at Chadwick International School. Mr. Helms noted that: “The idea of global ‘remote learning’ was so unprecedented that I don't think anyone was thinking about the security issues that would need to be in place as well… Both of these platforms quickly realized the lack of security and created patches to increase the security of these meetings to protect our students and classes. I believe that Zoom requires a password created for the specific meeting in order to join and Google Meets requires you to have a school email to join the specific class link.” 

[Screenshot of Interview with Jacob Helms, expert in the Social Sciences.
Photo Credit: Sean Kim]

Another prominent issue is the availability of technology.However, to even have proper classes, one must have access to the internet and a computer. The lack of availability to such expensive products has clearly differentiated the economic gap of certain families with children. This issue is called “Digital Poverty”.

Upon the polarization of education opportunities, Mr. Helms noted: “Access to technology is not a new issue, COVID-19 has just put a magnifying glass on the problem. Not only do students need computers and tablets to access live classes, the technology also needs to be new enough to support the latest version of apps schools are using as well as internet speeds fast enough to support a smooth online class. This "digital divide" is creating massive inequality and limiting access to education for the students that do not have the technology needed. As a society, we have been struggling with how to make education more equitable for our students around the world, and we are clearly still working on this.”

Just like Mr. Helms noted, governments and educational policies must be updated so that learning opportunities are equal all the time. In the offline world, there is free public education; in the online world, although public education is still free, being able to “step into the classroom” requires money.

According to an interview from BBC, Wayne Norrie, head of an academy trust with schools in disadvantaged areas, said, “60% to 70% of children (in Norrie’s academy) don’t have laptops,”

That means about 65% of the children cannot get education even if they want to because they don’t have money. I believe that the government should immediately take action, action that they had not taken earlier.

By reviewing both problems, digital security and digital poverty, it is clear that there are numerous problems of education quality and equality caused due to COVID-19. I wish that time will help solve such educational problems by advancing security and updating policies, just like how time solves many other things. The government could use tax to pay for small laptops children can use to help children directly but providing educational subsides, or NGOs can start a fund raising project to achieve the same goal. These solutions indeed are very feasible things, and I hope that these solutions are implemented into society sooner than later.

 

 

 

 




Sean Kim
8th Grade
Chadwick International School

Sean Kim  student_reporter@dherald.com

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