Creative Education
2012. Vol.3, No.1, 84-91
Published Online February 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Safety Aspects in the Distance Learning Systems
Sergii Kavun1, Yousef Daradkeh2, Alexander Zyma3
1Department of Computer Systems and Technologies, Kharkiv National University of Economics, Kharkiv, Ukraine
2Department of Computer Information Systems, the University of Jordan/Aqaba Branch, Aqaba, Jordan
3Department of Tourism, Kharkiv National University of Economics, Kharkiv, Ukraine
Received October 27th, 2011; revised November 19th, 2011; accepted December 5th, 2011
The article studies the problems of improving the degree of information security in the distance learning
systems (DLS) at the expense of using innovative methods and technologies of information security sys-
tems (ISS). In this article are also considered the recommendations for improving existing DLS in training
of the specialists at higher educational institutions as per Bologna Process regulations. In addition, this ar-
ticle demonstrates the results of statistical researches in the field of information and economic security for
DLS. The types of expenses in the DLS are also classified here. The authors have proposed the key ele-
ments for the DLS, the use of which is shown in the example of a research portal of information and eco-
nomic security. The arguments presented will increase the level of security. The results of analysis, car-
ried out within this article, demonstrate the real possibility of development and further implementation of
security elements. The results of analysis, carried out within this article, demonstrate the real possibility
of development and further implementation of security elements.
Keywords: Distance Learning Systems; DLS; Security; Safety; Distance Education; Information Security
As it is known (Daniel, 1996), the area of distance (electronic)
education (DE) cannot spare without the mutual influence of all
related sectors and aspects of the operation; however, this
statement can be applied to other areas. In addition, the solution
of many global problems of DE, which is currently experienc-
ing a certain crisis, is directly linked to the development of
distance learning systems (DLS), based on information and
communication technologies. The traditional system of DE
with its restricted access to universities, with relatively high
cost and inflexibility is unable to cope with growing demand
for higher education and unable to provide equal access to edu-
cation for the general population.
What is DLS? Distance education (DE) or distance learning
(DL) is a field of education that focuses on teaching methods
and technology with the purpose of delivering teaching, often
on an individual basis, to students who are not physically pre-
sent in a traditional educational setting such as classroom. It is
described as “a process of creating and providing access to
learning when the source of information and the learners are
separated by time and distance, or both” (Honeyman & Miller,
1991). Distance education courses that require physical on-site
presence for any reason (including taking examinations), are
considered as hybrid (Tabor, 2007) or blended courses of study.
Problem of DE were discussed in studies of various scientists.
In their opinion, the implementation of DE into the process of
training and retraining of specialists in the educational system
of different countries is necessary due to several reasons:
Slow mutual integration and implementation of European
and world standards in education and research activity with
regard to the principles of the Bologna process.
Intensity of science development requires permanent im-
provement of the professional knowledge and skills of em-
ployees of different specialties.
Only technology is capable of providing timely corrective
training content by high-speed update of knowledge in in-
formation-educational environment.
High economic efficiency of DE.
Issues associated with theoretical and practical aspects of
implementation of distance learning technologies which are
deployed in modern education, are discussed in the works (Ca-
sey & Lorenzen, 2010; Dickey, 2005). Modern technologies
and methods of teaching, learning and knowledge control are
comprehensively considered in the works (Levinson, Moore, &
Kearsley, 2005).
In addition, the relevance of this question is that the imple-
mentation of DLS with their innovative methods of education
can facilitate the solution of major social problems in the fol-
lowing ways:
Implementation of the population’s needs for educational
Satisfaction of the country’s needs in quality of trained spe-
Increase of social and professional mobility of students, their
social activity, level of self-consciousness, expanding of
their mental outlook.
Preservation and increase of knowledge, human and mate-
rial potentials, accumulation of national higher education.
Development of unified education space within the country
and the entire international community, which suggests the
possibility to get education in any place of educational
Statistical Information
In order to emphasize the relevance of research of DE, a num-
ber of indicators (educational, social and economic) are consid-
ered below. As it is known (Daniel, Kanwar, & Uvalić-Trum-
bić, 2005), DLS are based on the following key resources: users
and development of the means (channels) of access (Figure 1).
For example, as it is shown, Ukraine was on the 9th place
among the countries of Euro-region with the index of popula-
tion of 33.9%, i.e. at least every third person here knows what
is the Internet and can use it.
According to the result at Figure 1 it is possible to make an
inference that presented distribution completely corresponds to
the share of users (at 30 of July, 2011) in Europe. It based on
population of each country from which this distribution has a
direct relationship.
Thus the level of growth of this knowledge in Ukraine is
over 7500% per year (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2006).
In terms of Internet penetration, the distribution of the re-
gions is shown on Figure 2.
The presented results reflect the real (at 31 of March, 2011)
state of education in the world and by region, which shows that
education level partly depends on economic situation of the
region, population and other factors, but its require additional
This indicator is more objective, because it shows the pro-
portion of the Internet use among the entire population of the
Figure 1.
Number of Internet users in Europe (Source: Internet Word Stats— common indicator.
Figure 2.
Word internet penetration rates by geographic’s regions—2011 (Source:
Internet Word Stats— com-
mon indicator.
Obtained statistical data can be used to conduct a compre-
hensive analysis of the structure of existing DLS, detection of
vulnerabilities in them and threats of unauthorized access, im-
plemented through the existing vulnerabilities, for proposing a
model of the information security system, and formulation of
conceptual recommendations for modifications (improvements)
of DLS.
As for the equity participation of actors in DLS, the statistics
provides (Kavun, 2011) the following data (Figure 3).
A presented (Figure 3) ratio distribution of distance learning
students to their total number demonstrates the inverse propor-
tional dependence on the level of education system in a country
taking into account the population correction.
For example, in Canada (UNESCO Institute for Statistics,
2006), every tenth student has direct relevance to the DLS. This
indicator provides Canada with the fourth place among coun-
tries of the world. As we remember, at the accounting classifi-
cation there are 191 countries-members of the United Nations,
and the total number of countries is more than 240.
Economic indicators in DLS must not be equal for the stu-
dent and tutor (Bosseler and Carbonneau, 2009), taking into
account the presence of fixed and variable costs. These are
mainly financial (Kavun, 2007) costs (Table 1).
Figure 3.
Proportion of students who study at distance from the total number of
students: education indicator.
Table 1.
Types of expenses in the system of distance education: economical in-
dicator (The result of author’s researches).
Fixed expenses Variable expenses
Elaboration of distance learning
course Support for hosting
Allocation of personal time to
Elaboration of multimedia
didactical ensuring
Validation control works
The choice of course of study Allocation of time for passing
Payment of course fees Commissioning tests, exams
The choice of learning mode Payment of interim costs
(printing, copying, subscription)
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 85
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Thus, DLS can be represented in the form (Karpenko, 2008)
of the scheme taking into account the cyclical nature of the
study (Figure 4).
Then, considering the security aspects (Ponomarenko and
Kavun, 2008), that are directly relevant to DLS, it is necessary
to identify major elements of them (or subsystems-services),
which the student would face with (Figure 5).
They are based on items considered by student representa-
tives. The results of the survey of university students in Chi-
cago are demonstrated on Figure 6.
The research, which was conducted by the Center of Public
Opinion Research NORC at the University of Chicago 10 years
after the tragic event of 11 of September, 2001 showed the
depressing result.
It should be noted that Americans trust the information about
different aspects of their private life only to governmental enti-
Gathering of such information by private companies evokes
protest from USA citizens; it will be enough to remember pre-
cedents with mobile devices running by iOS and Windows
Owners of these devices expressed their protest and it led to
legal action.
Nevertheless, in the Register edition was written that only
one in five respondents believe that USA now is moving in the
right direction.
Among the factors considered a special place is occupied by
the following ones: authentication, identity, website and com-
munication tools (FTP and e-mail services) (National initiative
for cyber security education, 2011). All of them in aggregate or
individually promote the use of passwords, personal informa-
tion, content, and copyright compliance. At the same time in
the past these factors were subjected by negative impact from
substitution, loss, alteration, falsification and other negative
aspects of information security (Hoover, 2010). Figure 7 dem-
onstrates students’ attitudes towards the Internet.
Figure 4.
Cyclic scheme of the learning process over time (The result of author’s
Figure 5.
Influence of security factors on the DLS (Kavun, 2009).
1: positive attitude towards the government to read personal mail without permission; 2: positive attitude to reading the data when it is necessary to communicate with
foreigners; 3: thinking, that government must be able to browse someone’s search history without judicial authorization; 4: financial records can also be inspected without
proper notice; 5: positive attitude towards the government’s listening to personal phone calls; 6: positive attitude towards the government’s listening to personal phone if
calls are directed abroad; 7: approval of video surveillance in public places; 8: approval of video surveillance in public places, if respondents have children; 9: considera-
tion a torture of people, suspected of terrorism, to be a norm; 10: approval of “harsh interrogation measures” on people, suspected of terrorism; 11: consideration a torture
to be illegal; 12: thinking, that US is now on the right way.
Figure 6.
Results of polling of US citizens at the University of Chicago (according to NORC, September 2011).
The importance of the Internet connection is only one of
many discoveries of the Cisco last annual report, which were
conducted in May - June 2011. There were a lot of respondents
from 14 countries took part in the series of interviews including
USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, The Great Britain, France, Spain,
Germany, Italy, Russian Federation, India, China, Japan and
More statistics concerning this learning area is presented at
the author’s website (Kavun, 2011).
Aspects of Information Security
DL is based on the use of traditional and innovative teaching
methods and tools that are based on information and telecom-
munication technologies and provide an interactive learning
process participants interaction and obtain, study and control of
Authors performed the analysis possible to implement de-
composition of the learning process cycle (Figure 8).
For the traditional education system common sources of
learning are only printed materials, while innovative education
involves the use of both printed and audio-visual materials,
computer teaching programs, electronic journals, online data-
bases, and other educational materials provided to the listener
through computer networks. Therefore, this study raises the
problem of prediction of organizational and technical means of
safe and confidential storage, usage and transfer of data through
these networks.
Based on the author’s analysis (Figure 8) of the educational
process in the DLS, we found these main threats: disclosure,
integrity and denial of service. Additions were formed from
characteristics and examples of possible attacks that can be
implemented (Table 2).
1: consider the Internet to be as important as air, water, food, and shelter; 2: could not live without the Internet and cite it
as an “integral part” of their lives; 3: consider the Internet to be close in importance to water, food, air, and shelter in their
lives; 4: consider the Internet to be as important as these critical needs; 5: indicate they could not live without the Internet,
it is an integral part of their daily life; 6: would prefer to have access to the Internet versus a car; 7: consider the Internet
to be most important in their daily life.
Figure 7.
Results of the poll 1441 College Students (aged 18 - 24) and 1412 Employees (21 - 29) that completed an
online survey (according to Cisco, May - June 2011).
Figure 8.
The scheme of the cycle of educational process in the DLS.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 87
ISS is part of the overall management system, based on risk
analysis and is intended for the design, implementation, monitor-
ing, and maintenance and improvement action in the field of
information security (Ponomarenko and Kavun, 2008). The
main purpose of any ISS is to ensure sustainable operation of
the facility, prevention of threats to its security, protection from
unlawful acts, to prevent disclosure, loss, leakage, modification
and destruction service information, ensure the normal func-
tioning of all departments of the object. Examples of such
countermeasures are also designed to be the authors (Table 3).
Table 2.
Types of expenses in the system of distance education: economical indicator.
Main threats Characteristics Vulnerability Examples of possible attacks
This threat shows that the information may be
known to those who shouldn’t know. Threats
of disclosure take place whenever the access
to certain confidential information
(e.g. personal data) is received.
Threats of disclosure become possible at
the stage of authorization and generate
At the stage of authorization attacker can
intercept the authentication data, while at
the stage of creating documentation—can
remove confidential information about
success of student training.
This type of threat includes any deliberate
change (modification or even removal of
Threats to integrity occur on stages of
receipt of regulatory and variable blocks
of courses, the formation of such courses,
as well as converting assessments and
creation of the documentation.
Any substitution or modification of data
on success training can lead to
consequences that are described in
(Kavun, 2011).
Denial of
service (DoS)
Threats of denial of service occur when the
actions of the attacker block the access to
certain resource of DLS.
This type of threat can be realized on the
stage of logging in DLS.
The implementation type of threat “denial
of service” at the stage of logging in the
DLS, can lead to disruption of lessons
which take place in synchronous mode.
Table 3.
Recommendations for countermeasures protect against unauthorized access.
Type of protection Title of countermeasure Description of methods and technologies of countermeasures.
Detect listening
One of the major methods of listening detection is to use network intrusion detection programs, such as
Network Flight Recorder (NFR). To protect at the level of individual nodes, you can use BlackICE from
Network ICE, which allows it to discover JCMP-and TCP-listening, but also solve many other problems
Prevention of listening
Necessary to evaluate the importance for DLS of data exchange on the ICMP-protocol between network
nodes and the Internet. There are many different types of ICMP-messages, but in most cases there is no
need to allow exchange of data using all available message types, so you need to block those types of
messages that are not needed for work in the DLS. In addition, ACLs can allow the exchange of
messages on the ICMP-protocol only with some well-known IP-addresses.
Also one of the means of protection is the prohibition of unrestricted access to the ICMP protocol in the
internal network, which helps to prevent DoS-attack.
Protection from
listening to a
computer network
Protection from
Another method of protection is blocking IOMP-queries to those types that promote beyond publication
of information about the network. At the border router to block passage in the internal network packets
TIMESTAMP (ICMP-message type 13) and ADDRESS MASK.
Protection from
threats disclosing confidentiality
The protection against threats to confidentiality of information should be provided in DLS cryptographic
protection of data on hard and removable drives by their “transparent” encryption. For data encryption
can be applied proven resistant encryption algorithms provided by: kernel-mode cryptographic driver that
is part of Microsoft Windows (TripleDES algorithm with key length 168 bits) and connects an external
package of additional encryption algorithms (AES with a key length of 128 and 256 bits, Twofish with
256 bit key length). In DLS should be performed regular re-encryption of protected discs with the change
key and/or encryption algorithm. Necessary to provide cryptographic protection of network traffic
management session, which eliminates its exposure or substitution of an attacker. Each protected disk
can be determined by the individual scripts. These scripts can be used before connecting the drive, after
connecting, before disconnecting, after disconnecting.
Protection from
threats integrity
and denial of
Ensuring the integrity
and availability of data
To ensure availability and data integrity such technology is uses: expansion of drives during their filling.
Secure drives can be created on the basic volumes of dynamic hard drives; individual scripts for each
protected disk, support for multiprocessor systems and Hyper-Threading technology; stop of the process
of encryption, decryption, or re-encryption should not lead to data loss, network traffic management
session must be cryptographically protected, DLS must be organized by a group of administration to
reduce the risk of data availability.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
The authors describe a generalized scheme of constructing
the ISS-model (Figure 9) that meets international standards:
In order to take into consideration all possible aspects of in-
formation and economic security, we should highlight the key
elements that influence the development of the DLS.
Via the example of a research portal of information and eco-
nomic security (Kavun, 2011), the authors offer the following
key elements for distance learning systems (Figure 10):
1) Use of intelligent hosting;
2) Means of protection from copyright;
3) Statistical data binding;
4) Use of personal unique logo;
5) Implementation of watermarking technology;
6) Use of authentication and authorization;
Figure 9.
The common scheme to building of ISS-model.
Figure 10.
Key elements for distance learning systems.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 89
7) Confirma
and CAPTCHA tech-
Thus, the introductionbove key elements will
be deleted and if not protected, and then at least significantly
ok): the copy-
): such an achieve-
te of users’ personal data protection or other subject
will compete in the global market: the use of
tion of content validity;
8) Implementation of micro printed
All disputes or created by the negative aspects of information
security (Rezgui, 2007) entail the emergence of aspects of eco-
nomic security, which together form the financial (monetary)
loss. This is confirmed by the following numbers according
to data 2010-2011: the numbers of stolen records of personal
data—3.9 million per year; increase in the number of inci-
dents—1.5 - 2 times per year; costs for the organization to
support the information and economic security—127 hours per
month; proportion of organizations having problems using the
password—90% (Kavun, 2011).
What is the financial side of safety? For example, we present
a few numbers that characterize this side. Hacking website or
forum costs only $50 (at a cost to build $300 - $5000). The
question immediately arises, “Is it worth then to spend money
on creating a website?” The cost of a single account—$20 - $25
(considering the total amount of $80 million per year, it’s the
market earning crackers). Spam mailing costs from 50 up to
$ 200, depending on the volume of distribution. But this is the
cheapest way of public relations, advertising, which can lead to
the collapse of a marketing plan for the enterprises or other
organizations. Breaking the mailbox costs from $15 to $50, and
this can be everyone’s mailbox. At the same time other statis-
tics show that about 45% of the information in the category of
trade secret is transmitted by e-mail (Kavun, 2011).
To prevent these threats of unauthorized access, which is de-
fined as access to information that is in violation of established
rules of access permissions in the automated system, a neces-
sary condition for a modification of DLS aiming at the im-
provement the level of information security (Kavun, 2007).
Such improvement is possible when using the ISS.
ISO/IEC 15408 “Information technology—Security techniques
—evaluation criteria of information security,” and the ISO/IEC
17799 “Information security management”, and takes into con-
sideration trends in the regulatory framework for information
Therefore, because the DLS revealed several threats of un-
authorized access, it should form and hold complex of means
and measures (countermeasures) that would have eliminated all
points of risk threats implementation.
Thus, the influence aspects of information and economic se-
curity development on DLS become obvious.
The use of watermarking technology in conjunction with the
micro text will uniquely identify the authorship of content,
therefore, will help to protect copyrights. Tools of WEB-vali-
dation confirm the stability of the code, the absence of mali-
cious content, which ultimately leads to an increase of the
credibility of the submitted materials, increases the rating and
increases revenue. Authorization prevents from third-party de-
velopers claim or simply swindlers on the authorship, sue. Te-
chnology CAPTCHA (e.g., graphic interpretation) eliminates
the effects of but autodialers, thus ensuring the objectivity of
the statistics show, the audience and increase the degree of
confidence. A reasonable hosting involves correct and optimal
choice of provider (host) and provides the complex of the re-
sources and technologies, which lead to an increase of popula-
tion density, increase of functionality, increase of obtaining and
providing opportunities.
and use of the a
duce the impact of the consequences of negative impacts in
the areas of information and economic security:
1) Receive (or adjust) the value of content (such as for resale,
we can give you an example from the Facebo
righting is widely developed nowadays. In many countries for
copyrighting no punishment or fine are provided for. Besides, it
is very difficult to see and prove the commission of this act. It
all cause significant damage to the owners of educational re-
sources, although most of the material have a public access.
2) Protect their copyrights (intellectual) rights: also it is a
difficult question, which requires deep knowledge of interna-
nal legal rights and results of litigation of violations and
what is the most important, compensation for violation in copy-
righting protection. In this aspect knowledge of the information
will significantly facilitate the possible consequences based on
results of trials in copyright confirmation.
3) Can enter the world market (the same example with
Facebook, if you remember how it all began
ment will have a positive influence on the company image,
profit and rating; extend sphere of influence in their territory of
activity. Besides, entering the global market is a natural desire
(and international recognition) of any enterprises, including
educational institutions.
4) Increase the ratings of educational institutions (due to the
implementation of instructions of Ukrainian President to join
e world rankings): for university to be in the rating (at the
high position) has always a positive influence on the rating and
the image of the university, providing the increasing of appli-
cants number (due to the bigger importance and prestige), rais-
ing the status as a participant of different project, increasing the
degree of belief and recognition of domestic and foreign uni-
5) Protect personal data and to ensure existing regulations:
current sta
of educational activity entities requires providing a sufficient
attention, the necessary funds and resources for preventing their
leak (substitution, unauthorized access or other negative im-
pact). Otherwise university takes a risk of significantly reduc-
ing their image or rate or to stop the existence.
6) Jointly raise the level of e-learning: as a result of the in-
troduction and use of the above recommendations will increase
e level of e-learning, put this form of training together with
other forms to the appropriate location, and provide further
practical use.
7) Establish a system of (complex) multimedia teaching
systems, which
such system is a requirement of the modern world; because the
technological development makes to implement various multi-
media technologies to help the learning process goes to a new,
higher level. In addition, they make possible the increasing of
distance education level if general, to facilitate its use and, thus,
attract more participants into the education process. Modern
multimedia technologies allow to present material to study
more clearly and simply and moreover they can make the proc-
ess dynamic.
Thus, distance education, which becomes obvious reality in
the modern world and in the near future will develop most rapidly,
cause only through economic and technological advantages
of this model can be satisfied with a huge demand for higher
education, expected in developing countries. The optimal way
of this development is creation of DLS, which based on
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
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Stolbov and Kalachova, 2009), with a guarantee of qualifying
education, effective student support and an appropriate level of
information security, which can be achieved by integrating the
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