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Importance of Cybersecurity in Schools in 2022

In this article, we will discuss the importance of cybersecurity in schools.

Have you ever looked around and noticed how everything is filled with information? This means that every single thing in the world, including companies and educational institutions, is filled with data and contains a lot of information. 

Data is just that – an accumulation of information and facts. Safeguarding your data and systems is important within any organization, and the same rules apply to the education system.

This is primarily because schools and other education sectors hold a lot of sensitive information in their database. 

One instance of a malicious virus directly attacking the education sector was the GoldenEye attack, which took place in December 2016.

More recently, the National Cybersecurity Center has precautioned that since August 2020, there has been a rise in the number of ransomware attacks and cybersecurity breaches in the education sector itself.

The education sector includes schools, colleges, universities and training institutes. 

School networks are easy targets for cybercriminals to hack, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Schools can build defenses by prioritizing their sensitive data with a proactive strategy to eradicate this issue.

Importance of cybersecurity in schools

All schools hold valuable and confidential information about their students, staff, shareholders, and stakeholders. Here are some areas where data is stored:

  • Personal Data

All school systems hold information on the staff who work in the school and the children taught there. Information can include the students’ medical history, home addresses, phone numbers, and more.

Furthermore, the admissions team holds a valuable asset – the bank account details of each parent or employee. If a virus penetrates that system, this sensitive information is at risk and could be encrypted, stolen, traded, and used by delinquents.

  • Hazardous Websites

Unsafe websites could include sites created to abuse, exploit or bully the children that have access to them, or the website itself could be infected with a virus that will infiltrate your systems once entered.

It’s important to be aware of the security you have to avoid harmful sites and if those protective layers are reliable enough to avoid a breach.

  • Personal Devices 

You can’t always be sure that the problem will start within your hardware or software systems.

If a member of a team or a student has an infected personal device with malware or virus and they connect to the school’s network, this could also leave your systems vulnerable to being infected with deadly virus or ransomware or falling into the wrong hands.

  • Sensitive Information

This can apply to the records of staff, researchers, students, and exam information. It’s critical to protect this information and make sure that a reliable backup is in place in the event of system failure.

Should this information be compromised due to cyberattacks or data loss, it can have a massive impact on the reputation of the school and the education of the students.

Why Do Schools Need Cybersecurity?

So what is the reason that schools and educational institutions are targeted? Cybercriminals do not miss a good opportunity, and student data is considered pristine data.

Insider threats, including overeager students, can also wreak havoc on school operations.

Incidents like a cybersecurity breach at school can lead to trouble for students, staff, and schools.

Here are the top outcomes to avoid:

The outcomes can lead to stolen identities, an increase in thefts in your name or bank credentials, scheming tax returns filed, payrolls and 3rd party payments redirected to cybercriminals, altered or destroyed school records that contain valuable data, defaced or hijacked websites and social media, and schools shutting down eventually. 

What Impact Does Cybersecurity Have on Schools?

Education institutions need to make cybersecurity a priority. Education institutions like schools and universities need to emphasize a policy on cybersecurity and make it a priority. 

Cyberattacks are no less frequent or less intense in education despite the sector facing major challenges such as staffing shortages, resources, and funding. They seem to be at a high as instances of such breaches are being reported on a large scale.

Educational institutions are assigned and trusted with the task of safeguarding their students, many of whom are minority students.

Such a feeble cybersecurity infrastructure can put them at risk. This in turn can be worrying, as the safety and security of a student are compromised.

Teaching cybersecurity in schools

It’s certain that online learning does provide opportunities for both teachers and students. However, it has also become crucial to understand the risks.

The need to strengthen cybersecurity policies has become more important than ever. There needs to be a set of rules and policies established so that faculty, students, and parents are well aware of cybersecurity practices.

Cybersecurity should not just be limited to the classroom, virtual or otherwise. Since most home networks do not provide the same increased firewalls or protections offered by institutions, teachers and students become more gullible to hacking attempts as they spend more time online. It is important to practice safe online and offline behavior everywhere.

As a teacher or guardian, you are your child’s best defense against online threats like those mentioned above. Here are five steps that you can start following with your students today:

Teach Password Privacy: Help your students protect all the passwords of their devices and online accounts. Teach them why creating strong passwords is important, how to create them and never share them with anyone else. 

Monitor and Communicate: Communicate what comprises an acceptable, respectable to others, online post and take the time to monitor your student’s academic activity as often as possible.

Disable sharing Identity and Location: Restrict photo geotagging on your Android or iPhone and remind your students not to share any personal info online like age, school, address, phone number, last name or any personally identifiable data.

Safe Wi-Fi usage: Certify that your wifi includes encryption and a strong password with special characters and letters that will restrict outside access, and only share your password with those students of your class you know and trust.

Set Parental locks: Many kids are given a mobile, tablet, or internet-connected device before fully grasping the power in their hands. Try using built-in parental control features to take precautions and monitor their usage as early as possible to avoid risks.

School network security

With the advent of the virus, most schools now operate in a digital environment, so they need additional measures to strengthen network security.

Regardless, cybersecurity often falls through the cracks. The rise in cybercrime against schools and educational institutions indicates a pressing need to address this.

By implementing best practices of safeguarding confidential and sensitive data, a school can take control of its cybersecurity to create a safer, more potent infrastructure security.

Cybersecurity Policy For Schools

Public schools must reconsider their approach to cybersecurity in 2022. 

Here’s a look at some of the best practices that a school can adopt to safeguard the student and faculty data safe in the age of cybercrime.

  • Employ a safety framework for comprehensive security.

An organized framework provides a strategy and overview of a subject area to focus on, which helps streamline implementation.

They introduce best practices, offer recommendations for policies, and take the guesswork out of what infrastructure a university or facility needs.

Public schools should adopt frameworks as they function as an invaluable roadmap for comprehensive security, particularly when the infrastructure for security is not easily accessible. 

Governments worldwide recommend that public schools adopt the Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity.

  • Segment your network to control access and protect essential areas.

The number of devices and different types of network traffic on the average university or campus suggest that the one-size-fits-all networks common in other professional environments do not work for schools.

Not only is this path more pricey, but it takes away much of the oversight of safety that a school network requires.

Many schools now use network segmentation to get a quick workaround for this. It’s a clever, low-maintenance, feasible, and highly effective way to keep traffic separated and under control.

In segmentation, a network administrator can create considerable security policies according to the types of school network users.

Networks that use logins to access computers often use segmented networks. This can include rules and regulations for each group.

So in this, the general public can have an open network, a separate network for the employees and faculty, and another dedicated network for the students to use.

This makes sure that students cannot access parts of the network that are meant solely for faculty or that the unrestricted public cannot access resources that are meant for the students only.

Although this does not guarantee a complete protection framework, it can definitely reduce the risks of a cybersecurity breach. 

  • Develop robust policies for unsecured and unauthorized devices.

Technology is rapidly dominating the education landscape by introducing new and exciting teaching tools, and through the rise of electronics, students bring to class.

This can also mean an increased workload for I.T. professionals who are tasked with keeping networks safe for the university.

Malware and cybercriminals easily target mobile devices because everyone operates them daily, the smaller screen size makes it harder to spot or scrutinize potential threats, and device security often gets taken for granted.

As almost 80 percent of people own smartphones, unsecured and potentially compromised devices connecting to a school’s private network create a risk entirely on a different level.

Often at times, students and faculty can safeguard their systems but forget and fail to safeguard their official devices. 

Also named Bring Your Device, BYOD policies aim to reduce this exposure. Policies may include physical policies such as banning personal phones from wireless access policies such as the prohibition of Virtual networks or other privacy tools.

  • Conduct regular network risk assessments and inspection:

 A risk assessment that is conducted regularly shows an infrastructure exactly where weaknesses exist in its security protocols before a breach happens.

School districts increasingly count on a wireless infrastructure to manage their educational operations, but cybersecurity stays lacking.

Standard network assessments help avoid preventable catastrophes and keep I.T. and support staff free to provide more immediate support where it is required.

  • Provide efficient school network security training for faculty and students.

Most data and cybersecurity breaches are the result of human error. A robust school network security program and framework is not beneficial if students and faculty don’t understand how to avoid these risks actively.

So introduce cybersecurity training for all staff and students who regularly use technology on school and university grounds. Such training may include:

  • How to identify websites that are both safe and unsafe
  • Spotting phishing attempts or other fraudulent activities and scams
  • Using antiviruses, malware, or another frontline security
  • What are easily accessible policies, and why are they so important to follow

Cybersecurity Risks For Schools

A data protection plan is crucial with the increasing risk of data leaks and cybersecurity breaches. This should also include measures like effective access controls for the network meant for the IT professionals as well.

A network security breach can include the theft of social security numbers, dates of birth, phone numbers, and private health information. Although it is easy, there is however no guaranteed method to eradicate breaches.

This is also because data and cybersecurity breaches of this magnitude are happening all over the place in virtually every corporate and government environment, and the hackers are not just limited to educational institutions.

Hackers work in a smart manner, and they tend to look for security systems that are weakly guarded.

Unfortunately, it is common for school communities to have those due to limited and scarce resources for I.T. and cybersecurity. With definite staffing and resources available, the risk of mitigating a cybersecurity breach can be avoided. 

And this issue of safety and cybersecurity breaches is a new world problem, and this issue did not exist ten years back, not to this extent. 

Thousands of students, families, faculty and employees have their privacy invaded. They are at risk of fraud, identity theft, and offline/online harassment.

College admissions and other sensitive educational processes such as special ed grants are also at risk if exposed to sensitive online information.

With that being said, cybersecurity and data breaches can actively influence the school district’s reputation and diminish community trust in the institutions.

Cyber Attacks on The Education Sector

In 2020 alone, almost 60% of educational institutions experienced phishing attacks and cybersecurity breaches.

Ransomware attacks, business email compromise attacks and identity thefts are on the rise. In 2022, the numbers could worsen for all ransomware and cybersecurity breach attack types related to the education sector.

Many school data and information breaches are the results of phishing attacks. A school district faculty or a staff member receives an email containing a malware link in this hacking technique.

Simply clicking on the link allows their machine or mobile device (i.e., a network’s “endpoint”) to become affected.

This gives the hacker an opening to penetrate through the firewall of the school district’s network and steal data and other confidential student information.

For instance, Verizon reported in 2018 that users in the U.S. open 30% of phishing emails, with 14% of those targeted clicking on infected links or attachments.

Hackers work in a smart environment and are very cautious of leaving blueprints. They also deploy ransomware attacks and lock up the school’s valuable data -or threaten to disclose confidential information right until the district pays the hacker’s price.

Another popular technique involves social engineering, where a hacker can impersonate a district employee or vendor to steal a local network login credentials.

Hackers take very efficiently advantage of the proximate openness and weakly guarded public school networks as they are not usually protected, student laptops, and mobile applications, which are set up for inclusion of communities and student access to instructive resources.

This, in turn, leads to creating vulnerability to breach in the process.

Along these lines, a popular Magazine has actively reported that the number of security incidents involving mobile devices and exposed data has increased over the past year, but companies are not protecting their mobile assets as well as they do to their other systems. 

Schools, universities and other educational institutions have reported being exposed to such data breaches. 

Conclusion

Cybersecurity breaches are rampant, and they are happening widely across the world and quite fairly, at a fast pace. It is crucial to be aware of the policies and protect yourself from such breaches. 

One in four institutions acknowledged suffering a compromise due to a data or security breach over the past few years. One in four institutions acknowledged suffering a compromise due to a data or security breach over the past few years.

Appropriate measures to safeguard an institution should be effectively employed throughout the organization to keep the sensitive data safe and secure. 

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