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Cyber expert: 'Bored kids' are committing cyberattacks to avoid tests

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor

The threat of cyberattacks is usually associated with the likes of nation states seeking to disrupt enemy countries, or criminal enterprises bent on victimizing businesses and individuals. But the means to carry out such attacks has become so ubiquitous, one cybersecurity expert says it’s now being used by kids to get out of taking tests in school.

During an interview with Yahoo Finance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Cloudflare (NET) co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince explained how cyberattacks became a way to ditch exams.

“We see different patterns from different nation states all around the world,” Prince said. “But it also is sometimes individual criminals, bored kids; there’s actually a surprising spike in cyberattacks that happen as schools are about to have tests, because the modern version of pulling the fire alarm to get out of the test is DDOS say, your test service, in order to not have to take a test the next day.”

A DDOS, or distributed denial-of-service, attack is a kind of cyberattack that takes advantage of the lax security used by devices such as smart home appliances, and the like. Attackers are able to take control of thousands of such devices and then force them to access a specific website or service en masse.

With so many traffic requests hitting the target website at once, it becomes overwhelmed and eventually slows to a crawl or crashes completely.

A world more focused on cyberattacks

Prince, who has been attending the WEF since 2012, said that the gathering of the world’s most powerful business and political leaders was largely missing any discussion of cybersecurity until recently.

“And what's really changed is now it's a top of conversation in almost every boardroom around,” Prince said. “And so people from our team are here meeting with clients, advising them on what we're seeing in the cybersecurity landscape.”

Midsection of male student using smart phone while sitting at desk in classroom

Cybersecurity was also top of mind for Marsh & McLennan General Counsel Peter Bashar. Marsh & McLennan helped craft the WEF’s 2020 global Risk Report and pointed to cybersecurity as a major risk to the global economy due to the threat of nation state-sponsored attacks.

“So, obviously, there are nation state-level attacks where after we saw earlier this year, for instance, the general in Iran was killed, and we saw a massive uptick in the number of cyberattacks that were coming out of Iran, it was an over 280% increase in the attacks that were coming from Iranian IP space,” Prince said.

Going forward, the ability to thwart such attacks will come down to how prepared businesses and individuals are to combat these tactics.

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Got a tip? Email Daniel Howley at danielphowley@protonmail.com or dhowley@yahoofinance.com, and follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

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