Eight Most Important Cybersecurity Goals for Schools - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Eight Most Important Cybersecurity Goals for Schools


Going online, schools have become an easy target for cybercriminals. A hacking activity can send into a spin the lives of the students, their parents, teaching staff, or management personnel. Educational leaders have to introduce preventive measures and important changes to protect the confidential data of their students and employees.

Why cybercriminals would waste their time hacking school networks? In many cases, zealous or dodgy students themselves are the threat actors. But apart from that, weakly-protected school systems work as a red flag and opportunistic criminals see them as a pushover. Whatever the case is, hacking can lead to unauthorized disclosure of personal information, stolen identities, redirected payments, fraud with tax returns, papers forgery, and data crush, as well as bring disruption into the overall school operation.

To dodge those negative outcomes, there are several measures school leaders can introduce to enhance their network security. Most of them are quite easy and affordable. However, some will require additional funding and skilled professionals brought in.

Data and Systems Monitoring

Under proper management, data and systems monitoring can help to pinpoint the abnormal and potentially harmful activity. This can be performed by qualified on-site IT specialists or delegated to the outsource companies specializing in cybersecurity. In any case, careful monitoring gives a leg-up in locating compromised files that should be isolated, this way preventing security breaches.

On-Time Incident Identification and Response

Over 300 thousand staff members’ records are held in the Teacher Information Management System of the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Because of human error in 2018, they were made public for a short time. However, rapid response helped to avoid irreversible damage. It included the site shut-down and development of a special plan on speedy troubleshooting and prevention of future incidents of this type. It’s yet a mystery that helped to detect the problem so fast. But timely detection and intervention played a vital role in addressing the issue. A devised in advance plan of actions can help to deal with the problem promptly, as well as to reduce the damage caused by human errors or cyber threats.

Vulnerability Check-Ups and Patch Update

Regular vulnerability check-ups can help to sooner identify weak spots in the system. However, regular software updates are no less important than the vulnerability scanning tech. Outdated technology loses its efficiency in spotting vulnerabilities and puts the system at risk. Lack of funding is often the reason why schools refuse to upgrade additional software. In such cases, they should consider introducing extra cyber-protection methods, segmentation approaches, and implement stop-gap measures to shield their systems from malicious activity.

Cybersecurity Arrangements

It is of the essence that schools introduced a complex set of cyber-security arrangements. These include technology solutions, like firewalls, antiviruses, intrusion prevention software, e-mail security, and vulnerability scanning. As well as human-oriented measures, which include staff members training and data disclosure prevention.

These arrangements are also aimed at averting unauthorized access to the school system. A student from the University of Iowa managed to get access to the school system with the purpose to change grades for himself and five friends of his. He was using a physical keylogger. While antiviruses can prove effective against keylogger software, they are completely useless against physical intrusion. Keyword encryption technologies and a virtual keyboard for entering passwords, on the other hand, can help decrease the risk. Besides, it may be a good idea to monitor the attendance of computer rooms and equip displays with privacy filters for better physical access control.

Network Segmentation

Network segmentation is an architectural approach that breaks the network into several segments, called subnets. Each such segment works as an autonomous tiny network. In doing so, administrators can easier control the traffic flow between the segments.

Properly performed segmentation will allow setting various priority levels, thus preventing student hackers from getting unauthorized access to the system.

Cyber-Security Education Among Staff Members

Tech unsavvy school employees, especially among the older generation, may be easy targets of phishing activity. There are many cases across the US when phishing e-mail caused a chain of events that led to identity thefts and tax and payment frauds. Thus, Marion Brier gave hackers full access to her students’ records by clicking a fishing link from her working computer. “I was expecting a case study writing help from my colleague,” - explains she.

Cyber-security education programs shrink the number of phishing clicks for up to 20%. Statistically, almost half of all education-related incidents are caused or connected with the accidental or intentional malicious activity of students or staff members. No doubt that all school participants will only benefit from digital security education.

Strong Password Policy

It is not uncommon when teachers or school administrators use default passwords. Shrewd students eager to improve their grades or take revenge over a harsh principled teacher may take advantage of this situation. Schools need to carry on a strict policy that would include enforcement mechanisms of using strong passwords and multi-factor authentication. Besides, the latter can greatly reduce the number of human errors and result in fewer system breaches.

Better Vendor Choosing Practices

Third parties may not be as concerned about your confidential information security as you are. Before hiring an outsourcer to manage your network and school records, it is better to learn about their privacy policy and digital security methods. While it may be tempting to save school funds by hiring a free service, the authorized employees should always remember that there is no such thing as free lunch.

Low attention to cybersecurity at schools makes them an easy and highly attractive target for hackers. However, this state of things shouldn’t be a rock-solid truth. By choosing proactivity as their strategy, schools can fortify their protection measures and focus on the priorities that will help to eliminate or smooth the damage from cyberattacks.

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