Keep Remote Classes Safe and in Session: What You Need to Know About Netop Vision Pro
Distance and hybrid learning environments are now the norm, and it remains to be seen if or when this will change. To adapt, many schools have adopted new software to support remote classroom management.
One such platform is Netop Vision Pro, a student monitoring system that helps teachers facilitate remote learning. The software allows teachers to perform tasks remotely on students’ computers, such as locking their devices, blocking web access, remotely controlling their desktops, running applications, and sharing documents. However, the McAfee Advanced Threat Research (ATR) team recently discovered multiple vulnerabilities with Netop Vision Pro that could be exploited by a hacker to gain full control over students’ computers.
Let’s dive into these vulnerabilities and unpack how you can help protect your students in the virtual classroom.
How We Identified Netop Vision Pro Vulnerabilities
Just like a school science project, our researchers created a simulation to test their hypothesis regarding the potential software bugs. The McAfee ATR team set up the Netop software to mimic a virtual classroom with four devices on a local network. Three devices were appointed as students, and one was designated as the teacher. During the setup, the team noticed that there were different permission levels between student profiles and teacher profiles. They decided to see what would happen if they targeted a student profile, since this would likely be the avenue a hacker would take since they could cause more damage. With their experiment set up, it was time for our researchers to get inside the mind of a cybercriminal.
While observing the virtual classroom, the ATR team discovered that all network traffic — including sensitive information like Windows credentials — was unencrypted with no option to turn encryption on during configuration. They also noticed that a student connecting to a classroom would unknowingly begin sending screenshots to the teacher.
Furthermore, the ATR team noticed that teachers would send students a network packet (a small segment of internet data) prompting them to connect to the classroom. With this information, the team was able to disguise themselves as a teacher by modifying their code. From there, they explored how a hacker could take advantage of the compromised connection.
The McAfee ATR team turned their attention to Netop Vision Pro’s chat function, which allows teachers to send messages or files to a student’s computer, as well as delete files. Any files sent by a teacher are stored in a “work directory,” which the student can open from an instant message (IM) window. Based on the team’s discovery that a hacker could disguise themselves as a teacher, it became clear that hackers could also use this functionality to overwrite existing files or entice an unsuspecting student to click on a malicious file.
The Risks of Netop Vision Pro Vulnerabilities
Of course, remote learning software is necessary right now to ensure that our children stay on top of their studies. However, it’s important that we educate ourselves on these platforms to help protect our students’ privacy. While the Netop Vision Pro student screen shares may seem like a viable option for holding students accountable in the virtual classroom, it could allow a hacker to spy on the contents of the students’ devices. While the functionality allows teachers to monitor their students in real-time, it also puts their privacy at risk.
If a hacker is able to impersonate a teacher with modified code, they could also send malicious files that contain malware or other phishing links to a student’s computer. Netop Vision Pro student profiles also broadcast their presence on the network every few seconds, allowing an attacker to scale their attacks to an entire school system.
Finally, if a hacker is able to gain full control over all target systems using the vulnerable software, they can equally bridge the gap from a virtual attack to the physical environment. The hacker could enable webcams and microphones on the target system, allowing them to physically observe your child and their surrounding environment.
Our Response to the Identified Vulnerabilities
Our researchers reported all vulnerabilities discovered to Netop and heard back from the company shortly after. In the latest software release 9.7.2, Netop has addressed many of the issues the McAfee ATR team discovered. Students can no longer overwrite system files, which could be used take control of the student machine. Additionally, Windows credentials are now encrypted when being sent over the network. Netop also told McAfee that they have plans to implement full network encryption in a future update, which will prevent an attacker from easily monitoring student’s screens and prevent them from being able to emulate a teacher.
While Netop works to remedy these issues internally, there are some critical steps parents can take to help protect and empower your children in the virtual classroom. Check out the following tips to bring you and your family peace of mind while using third-party education platforms:
1. Use a dedicated device for remote learning software
If your student is required to use Netop Vision Pro or other third-party software while distance learning, have them use this technology on a device strictly used for educational purposes. If the software contains any bugs, this prevents other important accounts used for online banking, emails, remote work, etc. from becoming vulnerable to the software risks.
2. Use comprehensive security software
It’s important to keep in mind that Netop Vision Pro was never intended to be internet-facing or taken off a school network. Let’s look at this scenario through the eyes of a hacker: they will likely try to take advantage of these vulnerabilities by delivering a malicious payload (parts of cyberattacks that can cause harm) or phishing attempts. To protect your students from these threats, utilize a comprehensive security solution like McAfee® Total Protection, which helps defend your entire family from the latest threats and malware while providing safe web browsing.
3. Keep an open line of communication with your student’s school
Educators want to keep their students’ best interest and safety in mind, so talk to your child’s teacher or principal if you ever have concerns regarding the software they are using for distance learning. If your student is required to use Netop, ensure that the teacher or principal is aware of the vulnerabilities listed above so they can be sure to administer the necessary software updates to keep your child and their classmates safe.
4. Use a webcam cover
A simple yet affective way to prevent hackers from spying on you and your family is to use a webcam cover for when class is not in session. Instruct your student to place a cover over their camera when they are not using it to bring you and your student greater peace of mind.
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