ND officials: Be careful when using video conferencing tools

State News
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Chief Information Security Officer Kevin Ford and State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler are warning North Dakotans about new cybersecurity threats tied to video conferencing platforms, like Zoom, Skype and GoToMeeting.

Such digital tools are becoming increasingly popular given theCOVID-19 driven increase in remote work and learning environments.

Examples of the cyberthreats, referred to as ‘bombing,’ include hackers gaining access to online meetings and taking over victims’ microphones and cameras, often shouting profanities and hate speech or sharing pornographic images to meeting attendees.

EduTech, the education technology arm of North Dakota Information Technology, and NDIT have been actively engaging with K-12 and higher education leaders about these new threats and working together on ways to reduce risks to teachers and students who are using a variety of technologies to support e-learning. 

North Dakota Information Technology’s Cyber Operations Center has also issued a security risk assessment and associated guidelines for video conferencing platforms that can be accessed at this link.

“We want to remind everyone to be vigilant about security and data privacy. Please be sure that whatever tools are used adhere to FERPA guidelines and COPPA requirements to protect educational and personal data,” said Baesler. “The transformation of education that has been achieved, in such a short period of time, is a testament to the outstanding work, dedication and partnerships that exist in North Dakota.”

“We encourage citizens and team members to bookmark the detailed cybersecurity alerts posted daily to NDResponse.gov,” said Ford. “In addition to utilizing Microsoft Teams as the preferred state platform, following these tips can help reduce malicious attacks when using any video conferencing platform: require a password to access the meeting if that option is available, control access to your meeting through a waiting room, do not publish meeting invitations in public, online locations, and if you save the meeting make sure it is password-protected.”

Ford also emphasized people should remember that free tools do not necessarily have the same security measures in place as those that have been vetted and approved by the state.

Ongoing COVID-19-related cybersecurity threats include phishing emails that try to manipulate end-users into clicking on links or attachments that are infected with malware or ransomware. Users should only access trusted and reputable sources and be cautious with clicking on links or attachments from unknown sources or entities claiming to have COVID-related information.

Emerging threats and misinformation trends around COVID-19 are updated daily at https://ndresponse.gov/covid-19-resources/covid-19-cyber-threats. Team ND members are also encouraged to follow the multi-factor authentication and related security measures outlined at https://www.nd.gov/itd/how-work-remotely.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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