What schools need to do to take cybersecurity more seriously
The world is continually innovating and evolving and when it comes to technology, we are slowly moving away from traditional learning and moving into the digital space.
Schools are packed with valuable, confidential and sensitive information. As more digital tools are brought into the classroom and integrated into school administration, more of that information becomes vulnerable to cyber threats.
Most educational establishments are at the mercy of budget cuts across the board. Thinking that money can be saved when it comes to investments in cybersecurity can seem like a good way to spend more directly on teachers, classrooms and students.
We can all sympathise with budget shortfalls. But, skimping on cyber is a mistake. Cybersecurity prevents cyber-attacks and protects the financial and personal data of the entire school. Phishing attempts and hacks are becoming more commonplace, and while school budgets are being cut, cybersecurity should not slip out of the control of the school. Investment in the right IT partner can mean the difference between the school's EdTech being vulnerable or not. Can your establishment really afford not to be prepared?
Here are the top reasons you and your school need to take cybersecurity seriously and a few tips on how to get started protecting yourself from digital threats.
Cybersecurity Should Be Your Priority: Here's 5 Reasons Why
As the leader of a school, it's up to you to ensure that you keep your school networks as clear and secure as possible. If there are data breaches, parents can sue the school, and you remain liable for damages caused.
Money is tight enough as it is and school management needs to do everything they possibly can to go above and beyond for their cybersecurity. It has to be more than just the data access; it's the digital space as a whole and unsafe websites that need your concern.
Cybersecurity insurance can help to cover your school if a breach did occur, but getting some information on the right IT partners to support your school security is the best, most secure plan you could invest in. It will allow you to show that due-diligence was done on your behalf if a breach occurs and drastically reduce the chances and severity of a breach occurring at all.
2. Legal Requirements
There are legal requirements that your school needs to adhere to so that you are not exposed or vulnerable. For example, HIPAA compliance is essential, and school records that contain health information are vulnerable if they've moved into the digital space. This is health information that covers both students and staff, as well as school officials. Records like this need to be protected. If you store this information digitally on an insecure system, you're effectively breaking the law.
If a school has a data breach, it will likely be reported on the news. This then lives online in the records of the internet and any searches could bring it up over and over again. It's the curse of the digital footprint, and it can harm the reputation of the school management and their leaders if a data breach gets brought up, and careers could be lost because of it. Schools cannot afford to be careless when it comes to cybersecurity.
School networks going down mean that education is disrupted. It may only be for a moment, but most schools are embracing digitisation, and this interruption can severely set the education of the students further back than anticipated. With the right IT partners, this can be prevented with software tightened up to avoid security breaches and hacked networks. Outages can waste your time, which is why investing in the right technology can avoid this.
5. Digital Records
Some cyber attacks don't aim to steal data. Some attacks focus on the information being altered to impact employment or college applications. This is fraud, and it's a serious offence. As records are moving online, it's more important now than ever to ensure that school leaders are receiving the right support to ensure that they are not the only ones in charge of the records of the school. IT and school management should be working together.
What You Need to Do: A Crash Course in Cybersecurity
Building a safe digital environment is not as straightforward as would be nice. But, with the proper preparation, huge steps can be taken to improve your cybersecurity outcomes.
The first thing to do is just get the technical aspects down. This means investing in firewalls, encrypted storage/data transfers and multi-stage login/authentication. Making the right vendor choices can be hard. But, IT managed service providers can help you make the right choice for you from the beginning.
Then, you need to maintain your system appropriately. On a very basic level, that means updating your computers. A huge number of security breaches could be avoided if businesses would just set their computer systems to auto update. A lot of those pesky Windows updates that annoyingly force you to restart your computer are about cybersecurity. Make sure that teachers understand the importance of doing that.
Where Cybersecurity Gets Complicated
Unfortunately, things get a little more complicated after that. No system is perfect and stopping teachers, for example, for clicking on ‘phishing’ emails and entering their login credentials has a lot more to do with training staff on what to look out for than it does on any IT investment.
You need to invest in training, creating a culture of security along with building a technical solution. Again, the right outside partners can help you do this.
Technology, however, can help. For example, make sure the permissions you give student credentials do not have the kind of access that can contaminate your entire network — limiting the pool of people who can accidentally deliver access to a hacker.
Next, you need network visibility. As part of IT security and safeguarding, unsafe websites need to be blocked and monitored. This will also help you track personal devices, and even prevent cyberbullying by being able to look in on how students are using your network to communicate with each other.
Individual devices in the school area need to be as protected as the main IT systems. Infected personal devices can infiltrate the school systems, and while you can say personal tablets etc. are to stay at home, you can't always guarantee that a smartphone won't have a silent virus on it. Your security system needs to be able to account for this.
Always Ask Yourself: Will This Benefit Students?
It's essential that students are supported and educated in online safety, and a focus on safeguarding is beneficial for the school, the students and the parents. Investing in cybersecurity protection with the right IT partner is going to be crucial to the future of your cybersecurity. A big part of cyber education is awareness, for the students and the employees. You need more than one approach with security for your school.
Digitisation is happening across all schools, and it's easy to get lost in the planning and end up choosing ANYTHING just to have something on the table. You need to keep in mind that your school is there to keep children learning and engaged, and they should be able to do this safely. By limiting your IT investments only to things that you strongly feel benefit students, you will have more to invest in cybersecurity and fewer systems and end-user devices to protect — creating a simpler and safer environment that is maximised for student outcomes.
Rolling out the right security measures is essential, and once you have begun digital learning in the classroom, you need the proper protection in place to be able to continue a digital learning environment. It's important not to become disillusioned with the level of work that goes into cybersecurity for your school. Instead, identify the right IT partner and work with them to create a safe, secure environment for everyone.