#romancescams | Schools block 2.2b attempts to access gaming, other blocked sites

Schools blocked an extraordinary 2.2 billion student attempts to access gaming and other banned websites in the last three months.

Network for Learning (N4L), which provides fast broadband to schools, says the number of student attempts to access blocked sites more than doubled from 1 billion in the June quarter to 2.2 billion in the three months to September.

The increase was driven by a huge jump in attempts to access gaming sites, which quadrupled from about 190m in the June quarter to more than 830m in the September quarter.

N4L chief executive Larrie Moore said the increase was occurring in all regions.

“We would be surprised if it’s not something that is reported right the way across the school spectrum, given the popularity of gaming with the young,” he said.

Secondary Principals Association president Deidre Shea said the huge jump could reflect both the growing popularity of gaming and more schools deciding to block gaming sites.

“Young people are gaming in increasing numbers for increasing amounts of time,” she said.

“The figures we have seen about what students are doing in their own time shows huge numbers of students involved with things like gaming, so that would make sense if more schools have cottoned on to it.

“And perhaps with the winter months students would be less active outside and having more time.”

She said each school set its own policy but many secondary schools allowed students to use their own phones at lunchtime and intervals. If students’ phones were logged into the school Wi-Fi, the N4L system would block access to banned sites.

“Students, some of them are very adept at getting around systems, so you have to be aware of that as well,” she added.

N4L has issued the update today to mark the start of Cyber Safety Week, which aims to raise awareness of internet risks.

CERT NZ (Computer Emergency Response Team), New Zealand’s central agency guarding against internet attacks, reported 1197 incidents in the June quarter when malicious software attacks broke through security systems and ripped off New Zealanders by a record $6.5m.

Almost half the incidents were classed as “scams and fraud”, including a growing number of online shopping scams where goods don’t show up or don’t match what they were described as on social media, scam websites and sometimes on legitimate auction sites.

There were also 18 dating or romance scams, 14 fake lottery winner scams and 13 offers of fake jobs or business opportunities in the latest quarter.

The next biggest category was “phishing”, where scammers send emails that seem to come from banks or other legitimate companies and ask for details of people’s credit cards, internet banking, passwords, driver’s licences and other personal information.

Moore said N4L blocked a record 222m attempts to break into school computer systems for phishing and other scams in the September quarter, up 54 per cent from the June quarter.

“We are seeing a rise in attempts to access our networks,” he said.

“It’s a global phenomenon. It’s getting expensive around the world. It’s also affecting businesses and governments as well.”

He said the rising numbers of both inwards and outward access attempts did not impose any extra costs on schools.

“We are paid the same regardless of whether we do 1m or 5m blocks. We have no extra staff,” he said.

“But these figures are a reminder to everyone to be vigilant because it’s not just education, it’s broader than education.”

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