Of the many enterprises that are susceptible to a cyber attack, K-12 schools fall in the category of most vulnerable. Schools have a great deal to lose, from private records to tests scores, employee and student information, and likely private info such as credit cards or bank numbers for those that collect tuition. Even the FBI has issued a warning on “the growing threat to student data as more and more learning goes online.”
When it comes to defending a school from cyber attack, many districts fall short, leaving themselves open to many different destructive threats. Both small and large scale attacks can wreak havoc on educational institutions. Professional reputations can be tarnished if sensitive documents are compromised, daily operations could cease if a DDoS attack shuts down a schools network, and even legal issues can arise from the ashes of a heinous data breach.
“Districts and school leaders can be held liable for network breaches. Individual superintendents and principals can even be sued.” (EdScoop)
The first step in knowing how to handle a threat is to know your enemy. The type of attacks that often corrupt a school system is not new or innovative— they’ve likely been executed in the past and are easy to prevent. Every school’s first line of defense is education. Knowing what to look for (or where to look) will give non-tech-savvy schools a fighting chance.
Here are some suggestions to implement immediately:
Along with many modern workplaces, schools have begun to incorporate technology to simplify their daily process. From online applications like Blackboard to grading software like Scantron, schools in 2019 have become heavily reliant on tech. With new tech comes new vulnerabilities. To start, make sure your standard network and firewall are current and updated. It’s important to make sure all applications, especially the one’s handling sensitive data, are monitored frequently. Many hacks are well planned—hackers will find vulnerabilities first, then devise a scheme to take advantage of them. Incorporating more regular vulnerability scans or IT check-ups is great way to identify and eliminate potential flaws.
Cyber Security Education
Schools can make a huge impact on their student’s cyber safety by providing educational classes and reminding them of safe practice while using the internet. Small educational reinforcement can stop security threats in their tracks. Phishing attempts are often used to infiltrate a secure network via a clicked link or opened email. However, knowing what signs to look for can help students understand what to open and what to report. Check out the resources on our website for more specific safe practices and how you can coach kids to better internet safety.
Regularly backing up (saving) all the data a school stores is one of the best ways to avoid a hacking threat or eliminate a potential threat. Some attacks will bar users from accessing data without actually compromising it. Having all your data backed up can allow you to completely ignore the threat without missing a beat. If data is compromised, your backup will have everything you need ready to be replaced. We highly recommend advising a professional as backing up an entire school system of data can be a difficult practice for a small, internal IT team.
For more information on how to keep your school safe contact our team at 973-607-2140.