Homeschool apps a risk, warns cyber expert

Strong passwords more than 16 characters long with two-factor authentication are best, experts say.
Strong passwords more than 16 characters long with two-factor authentication are best, experts say.

Like many parents, cybersecurity expert Rahul Khurana has become used to juggling homeshool with work.

But it may come as a surprise that even he also finds himself having to bat away a stream of texts, calls and emails from fraudsters at the same time.

"Every day I get two phone calls, either from government or from the tax department, saying there is a fine or there is new medication available," the chief information security officer at Citadel Group told AAP.

With his family at home and online most of the day, he also has a fresh insight into his daughter's experience with similar risks.

She might receive a malicious link on her phone or strangers might make contact on social media asking for personal details, Mr Khurana says.

"That's the scary thing," he warned but said there were steps parents could take to reduce the risk.

"Keeping accounts private, that's the biggest thing; a lot of kids don't understand privacy settings on social media."

He recommends strong passwords with more than 16 characters along with two-factor authentication and keeping information in a secure cloud.

And parents should be especially wary of apps showing advertising or requiring access to contacts, cameras, microphones or location.

"That's a big red cross for me, when an app is asking for all those things," Mr Khurana said.

Apps such as Snapchat and Tiktok are an obvious issue but those used by schools to facilitate home learning can also be a concern, he said.

In 2020, the Victorian privacy watchdog found state government primary schools overlook privacy when selecting apps for students to use, instead focusing on their cost.

A Victorian Information Commissioner's report found most schools were unaware of the need to assess privacy risks and rarely sent parents information or opt-out forms when they started using new apps.

Mr Khurana says educational software should be vetted by schools and the data collected assessed for privacy risk.

"It's up to the schools themselves to do a bit more of the risk assessment on these applications," he said.

Australian Associated Press