Schools are not immune to cyberattacks. Here’s how to navigate cybersecurity in the modern classroom

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Education has always been at the forefront of societal progress, shaping the minds of future generations. In recent years, as we dive deeper into the modern era, the traditional classroom is undergoing a profound transformation. This digital shift in education has completely changed the way we teach and learn, from tablets and interactive whiteboards to online learning environments and virtual reality. However, this change is not without difficulties.

The proliferation of mobile devices and cloud workspaces expands the attack surface, making it easier for hackers to gain access to your network. Schools, universities and other educational institutions hold large amounts of sensitive data, such as school records, student and parent addresses, phone numbers, etc.

This makes it an attractive target for cyber attackers. Reports show that, from June 2022 to May 2023, there were 190 known ransomware attacks against educational institutions. This is an 84% increase in attacks over the 6 months.

Apart from the monetary repercussions of such attacks, the danger to the privacy of students, the damage caused to these institutes and their impact on society are truly troublesome. For example, last year Lincoln College in Illinois, a 157-year-old institution that had survived two great wars, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression and the Covid pandemic, suffered multiple attacks. ransomware and was eventually forced to shut down.

Thus, the seriousness of cybersecurity in education cannot be underestimated. Fortunately, cybersecurity training in schools is gaining momentum lately. In March, the governor of North Dakota signed a bill that makes cybersecurity training a mandatory part of the curriculum for K-12 students. However, protecting privacy and securing endpoints and networks while providing an unfettered learning experience is tricky.

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The balance between security, privacy and productivity

In an increasingly interconnected world, where technology is deeply integrated into education, the protection of students, institutions and their data is a major concern.

The backbone of any institution’s security is its network infrastructure. Every organization’s network infrastructure serves as the foundation for its cybersecurity. Strong firewalls, intrusion detection systems, secure network access controls and threat prevention systems are essential components of a secure network. Additionally, to prevent unauthorized access and data breaches, it is essential to monitor the network and patch vulnerabilities regularly.

In addition to the network, securing endpoints is also essential, as more and more schools provide computers, tablets or mobile devices in the classroom. Having policies in place that require the use of strong, periodically updated passwords and the regular application of security patches and operating system updates are key to keeping these devices secure. Alternatively, using a Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) solution will provide endpoint security features such as enforcing strict password policies by remotely pushing app updates or patches and operating system, etc.

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In addition to securing endpoints, when the number of devices continues to grow, managing them and ensuring they are not misused creates another hurdle. Provisioning all school-owned devices with an UEM allows administrators to perfect these devices into purposeful learning tools. Its app management capabilities allow critical apps to be pushed to devices directly from the UEM console without any external user intervention.

Moreover, all the unwanted apps might be blocked or restricted to install on the devices. The web content filtering capability does the same with websites, preventing students from visiting unwanted or malicious sites. A UEM that supports multiple operating systems also eliminates the hassle of using a different solution for each operating system.

Educational institutions will always have a significant amount of sensitive and personal data. Therefore, it is imperative to protect this data to maintain the confidentiality and trust of students, parents and staff. The scariest thing is that the loss of sensitive data, such as student records, can expose students or their families to dangerous attacks such as phishing scams or even identity theft. One way to avoid this is to use strong data storage procedures and to encrypt data at rest and in transit.

To this extent, deploying a Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solution goes a long way in protecting data privacy. A major part of avoiding breaches of this nature is closely monitoring the flow of sensitive data. DLP systems can help these institutes track and protect their data by applying pre-configured policies. Additionally, institutions should make compliance with data privacy laws such as the Educational Rights and Family Privacy Act (FERPA), General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) a top priority. ) or other legislation depending on your location.

Related: The Practical Guide: Protecting Your Business Against a Data Breach

Finally, no cybersecurity system is foolproof, so educational institutions should have a well-defined incident response and disaster recovery plan. The effect of a potential cybersecurity incident can be reduced by regularly backing up important data and testing disaster recovery plans, ensuring the institution can recover quickly and continue business as usual. In the event of such an attack, having a cyber insurance policy offers a solution to lessen the fallout. An insurance policy covers monetary expenses in the face of ransomware, data breaches, and other cybersecurity dilemmas.

Promote a culture of cybersecurity awareness

A predestined step in building a formidable cyber defense is to develop a culture of cyber security awareness. Using a strong password, recognizing phishing attempts and safeguarding personal information are just some of the safe online habits that can be instilled through regular training sessions and coaching programs. sensitization. North Dakota’s changes to its curriculum and pedagogy are a tangible example of promoting cybersecurity awareness.

As educational institutions become increasingly dependent on technology, addressing cybersecurity is not an option, it is a necessity. Schools and colleges are moving toward a more secure zero-trust architecture by fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness, installing a secure network architecture, preserving data and privacy, improving endpoint security, and developing proactive incident response procedures. With cyber scams becoming increasingly difficult to identify, moving forward with a zero trust mentality can strengthen their security architecture and protect their students and data.

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