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Comment from cyber expert on malware found on laptops provided by government for home-schooling

January 2021 by Oliver Cronk, Chief IT Architect, EMEA chez Tanium

Today’s news that some of the laptops given out in England to support vulnerable children home-schooling during lockdown contain malware, as covered by the BBC. Below commentary from cybersecurity expert Oliver Cronk, Chief IT Architect, EMEA at Tanium:

“Quick action must be taken to ensure that these devices aren’t used by vulnerable children or their families. Just one use of an infected device could be enough to steal a user’s credentials, academic work, photos or payment information. It’s clear these machines have not been wiped or updated properly and this raises concern around what else might be present on them, as well as how long these vulnerable children will now be left without devices if they’ve been compromised and need to be cleaned up.

This story is part of a wider challenge facing schools at the moment. They have had to roll out remote learning programs in super quick time, in many cases with limited IT resources and skills. As we have seen with businesses, connecting numerous remote devices to an organisation’s network can be troublesome even with vast resources on hand.

Schools should work with authorities to identify how many of the 800,000 devices that have been given out contain the malware. Then they must also assess if it’s just pupils’ devices that have been compromised or teachers too, as this would cause further problems. We must remember that these efforts are necessary if we are to best protect our children and the unprecedented amount of sensitive information that they are currently uploading to school networks which are often fragile."

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