LMS Security: Best Practices and Unobvious Tips

Igor Skakovskyi posted on May 11, 2021, edited on May 19, 2021
LMS Security: Best Practices and Unobvious Tips

Coronavirus pandemic forces universities, K-12, and enterprises to move education online, leaving their learning systems vulnerable to online threats. The education industry is the most affected sector by cyberattacks nowadays, as Microsoft Security Intelligence reports. 

Given that, when building an LMS, it would be better if you thought about LMS security requirements in advance. Kaspersky’s research revealed that DDoS attacks on educational resources increased by 550% in January 2020 compared to the previous year. The most common threats to education security are malicious downloaders, adware, and trojans. 

Whether you’re building a learning management system for corporate training or selling online courses, your product requires solid security protection. In this article, we share helpful tips on providing learning management system security from our experience.

Why learning management system security matters

Any learning management system collects users’ sensitive information. Personal data, social security numbers, emails, and copyright content that goes through the LMS are a target for malefactors. They can steal valuable data or shut down your system and demand a ransom. Unprotected LMS can be a path to other corporate systems and be a reason for data leaks. 

Security management is vital as it increases service quality and saves costs on recovery procedures. That’s why when building your learning management system, you should pay attention to the most vulnerable LMS aspects. 

LMS security vulnerabilities

Each learning management system is complex, dynamic, and contains a variety of resources. Constant information exchange through different devices makes the system vulnerable to malware.

Most elearning components such as network, web services, servers, clients, database systems can be threatened. Here are common threats you should keep in mind when creating a learning management system.

Authentication and confidentiality threats 

Any outside interference with the system related to the account seizure or data disclosure violates users’ privacy. Unprotected session tokens can lead to authentication breaks and session interceptions. Attackers can perform any actions from the hijacked account, while the owner won’t be able to enter the stolen account.

Besides malicious account manipulation, criminals can steal information if it’s not protected. If an LMS has no encryption procedures for sensitive data exchange and storage, it becomes easy to access and steal private information.

Integrity and availability threats

Integrity and availability threats are all about unauthorized actions on your platform. There are several types of attacks that you should be aware of:

  • Buffer overflow. If your LMS doesn’t check the buffer size before saving data, malicious code can be injected into it. Limit inserted value length and check if the value is larger than expected to prevent a possible attack. 
  • Cross-site request forgery. Cybercriminals can embed malicious code that tricks the browser to make unauthorized actions on other sites as it would happen with legitimate user consent. To prevent this from happening, all requests that change data on the server and requests that return personal or other sensitive data must be protected.
  • Cross-site scripting. Hackers can trick users into entering controlled websites and steal authentication information. These fake web pages could have the same graphical interface as your LMS.  
  • Malicious file execution can occur when malicious code is uploaded via homework, or other input data and the system doesn’t control the execution of uploaded files. 
  • Denial of service. This attack overloads LMS with thousands of requests from computers that participate in the attack and keep legitimate users away from accessing the platform.

You can prevent all these attacks from happening. To do it, simply follow learning management system security requirements and create your own data management policies and error handling procedures.

How to identify your LMS security requirements

To build a trusting and long-term relationship with your customers, you need to make your LMS secure. Carefully study the safety requirements and build a system that will meet them. Consider the following LMS characteristics when creating your security system. 

Type of a learning management system 

Depending on what industry you’re working with, your LMS should comply with particular regulation acts and LMS security requirements. Most organizations deploy a Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) to provide content reuse and component compatibility to incorporate learning. Tin Can is another standard that helps track user learning experience and has advanced security using OAuth. For the education sector, besides common security standards, it’s best to check what students’ data you operate with and how it’s protected. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects student personally identifiable information (PII), which includes: 

  • Name, birthday, parents’ or guardians’ names
  • Social Security Number
  • Home address
  • Test results, grades, attendance
  • Special requirements caused by learning disabilities
  • Credit card, bank data, learning loan information

Although FERPA doesn’t make cybersecurity demands, the act provides recommendations concerning data security and integrity. 

Expected number of users

Criminals often target security aspects related to user behavior because users are easier to manipulate. The more users register on your platform, the greater the risk of breaches. Also, the load on the network is growing, and more resources are needed to support the system.

LMS functionality

The broad functionality provides many learning opportunities for users, but the more features you add, the more careful you need to be about possible vulnerabilities. We have already mentioned attacks like cross-site scripting and malicious file execution. If your LMS doesn’t handle authentication and content management right, users’ data can be compromised.

Integration of other software

When building your LMS, you’ll indeed partner up with third-party providers to provide robust functionality for your users. Payment processing platforms, social media APIs, HR software, email management, and other services can cost your security issues if not secure. Always check if your partners comply with security requirements in their field.

Wondering how to build a custom LMS?
Check our guide

Main LMS security features list

Let’s now dive deeper and see what security features help create a secure shield from cyber intruders. 

Multifactor authentication

Multifactorial authorization involves opening access to a person who can verify their identity through two or more pieces of evidence. The evidence provided must fall under the category of knowledge (password), possession (mobile device), or inherence (fingerprint). Multifactor authentication reduces the risks of identity theft and online fraud since gaining a password won’t be enough to log into someone else’s account.

Password strength checker

When users register to your LMS, sometimes they create weak passwords such as 123456, ‘qwerty,’ or others. Such passwords are easy to crack, which makes the system vulnerable. You should validate user passwords and add some obligations for users when they create their accounts. For example, Microsoft suggests any password should have at least: 

  • Uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Numbers 
  • Special characters such as [email protected]#$%^&*_-+=`|\(){}[]:;”‘<>,.?/

Domain-based access control 

This approach implies that only the users with registered domains or subdomains can access the LMS platform. Developers create admin roles that can manage domains and grant or restrict access to specific domains. 

LMS security requirements: admin security implementation

IP blocker

Admin should have the possibility to add unwanted IP addresses to the blacklist to prevent intruders from accessing your LMS. This feature has some weaknesses, though. Malefactors can use another IP address to access your platform, and administrators cannot manually handle each suspicious IP.  We recommend using IP blocker as an additional tool to the other security features such as data encryption and access control.

TLS and HTTPS

TLS and HTTPS protocols are standards of data transfer through the web. They prevent data theft in transit with advanced encryption algorithms. All modern web pages use TLS/HTTPS encryption to connect with the server securely.

Antivirus 

Antivirus software is an excellent additional security tool. Antiviruses are programs that detect and block malicious programs within your LMS. They help prevent breaks and unwanted behavior inside your system. 

Data backup

Data backup is an action that is planned and happens periodically to protect critical information against damage and losses. If cybercriminals seize any personal data and threaten you with destroying it, you can feel confident with all the data backed up. Also, it’s good for business as you can quickly recover from the attack and continue to provide services.  

Data encryption

All sensitive information about your users should be encrypted in transit and at rest. Encryption algorithms transform the data into an unreadable text which can be accessed only with the unique key. Even if the criminals steal encrypted data, they’ll fail to use it for blackmail.

Cloud deployment

When implementing a learning management system, you’ll need to place all your data on servers. Cloud computing is a cost-effective, secure, and flexible way to deploy your software. To make it work, you buy space on configured servers with advanced security layers.

For example, Amazon Web Services is a trusted public cloud that provides different technical infrastructures. Cloud deployment decreases the risks of DDoS attacks as servers are distributed around the world. 

User roles and permissions

It’s possible that users can open access to undesirable persons or damaged data by mistake. To prevent users from making mistakes, it’s better to implement role-based access. Limit user capabilities according to their status: student, teacher, or administrator to protect content and personal data.

Content ownership regulations

One of the main problems related to content ownership within an LMS is that when teachers or admins publish learning content, there’s no person responsible for its pertinence and accuracy. It would help if you established a content ownership policy to track any content changes in the LMS.

Define how ownership is assigned and passed to another person, the responsibilities of a content owner. For example, each course or other learning content should have an owner who must update content, ensure its accuracy and answer learners’ questions related to the material. 

ISO and GDPR compliance

Advanced LMS platforms meet LMS security requirements by complying with ISO and GDPR.

ISO stands for an International Organization of Standardization. ISO is an international non-profit organization that develops standards for various activities and issues certificates of conformity. To improve your LMS and earn customer trust, you can get the following ISO certifications:

  • ISO 9001 – proves quality management and document flow within your organization. 
  • ISO 27001 – confirms your LMS complies with international security requirements. 

General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR is a European Union regulation about data protection. If you’re going to have clients from the EU, it’s best to comply with their requirements.

We’ve prepared a convenient checklist for you with all the covered LMS security features.

LMS security checklist

How to make your LMS secure: tips 

Ignoring the security of the LMS platform can lead to problems such as cyber-attacks, data corruption, data theft, system shutdown, etc.

Let’s summarize the necessary features that prevent these problems from happening we’ve already looked at. Here are our tips on how to secure your LMS platform.

  • Consider legal data security requirements. Carefully study your potential customer and special learning management system security requirements. Get all necessary certifications. 
  • Include access control features. Implement multifactor authentication and role-based access to prevent errors.
  • Enable automatic log-off. Limit user session in time. Make the system automatically log off after 10-15 minutes of user inactivity. It’ll help reduce the risks of account hijacking.
  • Conduct security checkups. To identify vulnerabilities and prevent security problems, conduct routine security checkups. Write the check procedures and the requirements that the system must meet. This will help make the security check reports practical and consistent.
  • Create a security breach protocol. Breach protocol defines your actions in case of a data breach. It includes communication strategies with your clients, procedures to handle accidents, and legal measures to protect your clients and company.
  • Provide security awareness. Teach your clients and LMS users cyber hygiene basics. You can provide a gamified tutorial after the registration to raise user awareness. Send users polite reminders to regularly change their passwords, etc. 
Interested in secure LMS development?
Learn more

Riseapps examples of LMS security

Riseapps works hard to ensure data privacy and security for our customers. We have proven experience in developing e-learning platforms that meet necessary security requirements.

Secure LMS example: Melanence

One of our customers wanted to create a reliable e-learning platform where people can securely exchange information and connect. Our team deployed a full-cycle development project and used the following security technologies:

  • TLS/HTTPS secure encryption 
  • Use of Python and Django to ensure data security at rest 
  • Use of AWS and Docker to provide cloud deployment

As a result, the customer received a reliable and scalable platform estimated at $ 4.5 million in January 2021.

Wrapping up

Cybersecurity is paramount for any digital business. As cyber-attacks can affect each person, the international community develops security regulations and requirements to protect internet users. Meeting all those requirements could be a challenge for entrepreneurs.

We advise implementing crucial security features as multi-factor authentication, data encryption, data access control, and data backup. Besides, your application code must be protected.

Writing secure code is an important competence that your development provider should have. That is why you should carefully choose your development partner. It’s best to hire a development company that already has the experience of creating secure edTech software.

Need a development team qualified in security matters?
Contact us

FAQs


What is LMS security?

LMS security is determined by the protection degree of personal data and copyright content. Each learning management system should meet security requirements established by ISO, GDPR, and other international organizations.


What are the legal requirements for LMS data protection?

If your LMS collects and stores personal user data or other data that is considered private within specific regulations, you must comply with specific data protection requirements.

For example, to serve customers from the European Union, you should comply with General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). For the learning industry, it would be Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that protects student personally identifiable information (PII).

Need a hand in LMS security matters? Contact us.


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