Despite the education industry often facing lack of staffing, funding, and resources, cyberattacks are no less frequent or less severe than in other sectors. Data breaches and security incidents in schools and higher education institutions aren’t just disruptive and expensive; they can compromise student safety.
Educational institutions are entrusted with large volumes of sensitive student data, and many of them are minors. But a weak cybersecurity infrastructure can put them at risk.
A recent report found that 47% of educational institutions suffered a cyberattack on their cloud infrastructure within the last 12 months.
In addition, this year's Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report found that ransomware, stolen credentials, and phishing are the main causes of security incidents in this industry, potentially exposing the personal information of employees and students. As a recent example, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the country, reported it had suffered from a ransomware attack that affected access to email, computer systems, and software applications.
Files containing students’ names, addresses, social security numbers, and other personally identifiable information (PII) can be extremely valuable on illicit markets.
The cybersecurity bar is often lower in schools, compared to enterprises or governmental networks; not only due to lack of resources, but also because most security solutions used by school districts were designed to protect on-premises data and apps.
The problem is that schools don’t have visibility or control over apps that reside in the cloud, or student data that moves through mobile devices, hotspots, and the internet. This responds to the overarching issue of Shadow IT, or the use of hardware, software, and cloud services without approval from the IT department of the institution.
Get the ebook: Detecting and Addressing Shadow IT
While there is a general shortage of staff with extensive cybersecurity training, schools need to ensure that all devices are properly configured and updated, and that data is stored securely and compliantly. The lack of policies or guidelines governing school cybersecurity is another factor contributing to the increase in attacks.
According to the report, educational institutions expect to have 56% of their workloads in the cloud by the end of 2023, compared with this year’s 44%. While providing significant operational improvements, this shift to the cloud will bring additional security and privacy challenges.
In order to proactively mitigate data exposure and detect cyber risks, IT teams need full visibility into who has access to sensitive data, when, and how that data is being used.
The following defensive measures can help protect organizations in the education industry:
Read more: Cybersecurity Awareness in the Workplace
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