In the digital age, cybersecurity is of utmost importance for all organizations, including educational institutions. Schools, colleges, and universities store sensitive data such as student records, financial information, and research data, making them a prime target for cybercriminals. Educational institutions face several cybersecurity problems, including malware, phishing, hacking, denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, and data breaches. However, their cybersecurity often isn’t up to the standard of businesses in the tech or finance sectors.
In this article, we take a look at the biggest cybersecurity threats faced by schools, as well as some ways that managed IT services can help improve your school’s cybersecurity.
Types of Cybersecurity Threats in Schools
- Malware & Ransomware
Malware is malicious software that can infect computers and other devices, causing damage to the system or stealing sensitive data. Malware can enter school networks through various means, such as email attachments, infected websites, or USB drives. Effective network security can help to prevent infections and conducting regular data backups can help mitigate the damage of potential attacks.
Phishing is a type of cyber-attack where hackers send fraudulent emails or messages to trick users into revealing their sensitive information, such as login credentials, financial information, or personal details. Having a cybersecurity provider send dummy phishing emails can help to prepare your staff on what to look out for and will help them spot real phishing emails in the future.
Hacking involves gaining unauthorized access to a computer system or network, often with malicious intent. Hacking can cause severe damage to school networks and result in data theft, system crashes, or unauthorized access to sensitive information.
- Denial-of-Service (DoS) Attacks
DoS attacks aim to overwhelm a network or server with traffic, rendering it inaccessible to users. DoS attacks can disrupt school operations and cause significant downtime, resulting in loss of productivity and reputation damage.
- Data Breaches
A data breach occurs when cybercriminals gain unauthorized access to sensitive data, such as student records, financial information, or research data. Data breaches can result in identity theft, financial losses, or legal liabilities for educational institutions. Using conditional access control measures such as password policies, biometric authentication, and two-factor authentication can prevent unauthorized access to the school’s systems and data.
- Vulnerabilities in Educational Institutions
School networks are particularly vulnerable to cyber-attacks, as they often rely on outdated software and hardware, weak passwords, unsecured WiFi networks, and lack of encryption. These vulnerabilities can make it easier for cybercriminals to exploit school networks and gain unauthorized access to sensitive data. Educational institutions should ensure that their software and hardware are up-to-date and patched regularly to prevent vulnerabilities.
Importance of Cybersecurity in Schools in a Digital Age
Professional cybersecurity services are essential for educational institutions for several reasons, including:
- Protection of Sensitive Data
Schools, like many organizations, store sensitive data such as student records, academic transcripts, and disciplinary records. The loss, theft, or unauthorized access to this data can have grave consequences for both the school and the individuals affected. To ensure the protection of sensitive data, schools need to take appropriate cybersecurity measures.By implementing effective cybersecurity countermeasures, schools can ensure the protection of their sensitive data from unauthorized access or theft. It is essential for schools to stay vigilant in maintaining the security and privacy of sensitive data to ensure the trust and confidence of students, parents, and faculty.
- Prevention of Financial Losses
The damage to the reputation of educational institutions following a cyber-attack can be significant. This damage can lead to a loss of trust from students, parents, and other stakeholders, which can result in decreased enrolment, reduced funding, and a loss of revenue. This can have long-term financial implications for an institution, making it difficult to attract new students and donors.
- Maintenance of School Operations
Maintaining the smooth functioning of schools is crucial for ensuring that students receive a quality education. Schools rely on their IT systems for various functions, including attendance tracking, grade management, and payroll. These systems are essential for efficient operations and to ensure that students, teachers, and administrative staff can access the necessary information to carry out their responsibilities.Cybersecurity is, therefore, necessary to maintain the functioning of IT systems and prevent disruptions that can impact school operations.
- Protection of Student Privacy
Student privacy is a crucial concern for educational institutions. Schools are responsible for safeguarding sensitive information, including personal identifiable information (PII) and educational records, from unauthorized access or disclosure. Schools must comply with data protection laws and regulations, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), to ensure that student privacy is protected.Furthermore, educational institutions must also ensure that third-party service providers who have access to student data, such as educational software vendors or cloud service providers, comply with FERPA and other data protection laws.
- Compliance with Data Protection Laws
Educational institutions are subject to various data protection laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Implementing cybersecurity measures can help ensure compliance with these laws and prevent legal liabilities.
- Prevention of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is a growing concern in schools, and cyber-attacks can exacerbate this problem. Cybersecurity measures such as content filtering and access control can help prevent cyberbullying and protect students from online harassment both during and after school hours.
Does Your School Need Professional Cybersecurity Services?
In conclusion, cybersecurity is critical for educational institutions, and the risks of cyber-attacks cannot be ignored. Educational institutions must take proactive steps to mitigate cybersecurity risks and ensure the safety and security of their systems and data.
A managed IT provider like us, which specialises in cybersecurity can conduct a thorough assessment of the school’s IT systems and identify vulnerabilities and areas that need improvement.
At Carden IT Services, we specialize in providing comprehensive cybersecurity solutions for educational institutions. Our team of experts can conduct a thorough assessment of your IT systems and implement effective measures to prevent cyber-attacks. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help your school stay safe and secure in the digital age.