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The ABCs of Cybersecurity in Education

One of the most significant threats facing the education sector today is the growth of ransomware

Schools have traditionally been seen as safe havens for students; a place where they can learn and grow in a protected environment. However, with the advent of the digital age, students and staff alike at K-12 schools and universities face growing threats to their sensitive data. Schools deal with a wealth of sensitive data, such as student records (including birth dates, addresses and contact information), medical information, financial data, and employment records for teachers and administrative staff. Hackers and cybercriminals are increasingly targeting educational institutions to hold this sensitive data ransom for financial gain or steal it and sell it on the Dark Web. More than ever, educational institutions must have robust cybersecurity programs in place to protect the school, students, and staff. 

Cybercriminals use social engineering techniques to trick users into divulging sensitive information such as login credentials or personal information

Mr. Zakir Hussain, CEO – BD Software Distribution Pvt. Ltd

A” is for adversaries – The growth in ransomware threats 

Like many other industries, one of the most significant threats facing the education sector today is the growth of ransomware. In the education sector specifically, more than 30% of the investigated data breaches were the result of a ransomware attack. 

Ransomware attacks on schools can be particularly devastating because schools often have limited budgets and personnel dedicated to cybersecurity and may not have the resources to recover from an attack quickly.  

“B” is for blunders – The human factor in cybersecurity 

Another threat to cybersecurity in schools is the “human factor.” Well-intentioned employees and users are largely recognized as the weakest link in any cybersecurity program, and schools are no exception. Cybercriminals use social engineering techniques to trick users into divulging sensitive information such as login credentials or personal information. Phishing attacks, which are fraudulent emails that appear to come from a trusted source, are a common social engineering tactic used to target students and staff.  

In addition to humans’ propensity to fall for social engineering tactics, there is also the fact that we simply make mistakes. In the education sector most of the breaches identified is from an email sent to the wrong person, or with the wrong attachment. Misconfigurations in a school’s endpoints (including computers and mobile devices), clouds or IT systems can also create vulnerabilities that attackers look to exploit and use as an entry point into the network. 

“C” is for cybersecurity – Delivering threat prevention, detection and response 

Effective threat prevention, detection and response form the foundation of any solid cybersecurity program and can help protect schools from growing cyber threats. Prevention includes measures taken to reduce the attack surface, such as addressing misconfigurations and vulnerabilities, securing email and endpoint devices, and managing risk, including human behavior. Protection involves leveraging cybersecurity solutions and services that help schools detect, quickly respond to, and recover from attacks. 

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