The Importance of Cybersecurity in Education
Cybersecurity is important for almost every sector, and focusing on digital safety holds many benefits for companies and organizations worldwide. This is especially true for the education industry because the dangers of cyber threats can leave schools and students vulnerable. Let’s examine why cybersecurity is so important to education, and what leaders can do to prevent digital attacks in the short and long term.
The State of Cybersecurity in Education
Before we get too deep into the world of cybersecurity and the education system, it’s important to understand the context for our discussion.
According to global tech company and manufacturer Intel, “Cybersecurity is the protection of networks, devices, and data from unauthorized or unintended access or illegal use.” This applies to networks that education systems use, as well.
Education Cybersecurity in 2023
During the month of April 2023, Microsoft’s Global Threat Activity Tracker reported that there were almost 4.5 million cyberattacks in the United States and about 90 million attacks worldwide. Within this, education was by far the most affected industry with 80% of cyberattacks occurring in educational institutions. The next highest is retail and consumer goods, with about 9% reporting enterprise malware encounters.
But why is education so affected by malware encounters and cyberattacks? There are many reasons, but cybercriminals are taking advantage of this industry’s quick adoption of e-learning. Unlike retail stores and businesses, which have been operating online for many years at this point, educators were required to quickly transition to digital platforms. For universities and colleges, many institutions have extremely valuable research data and may even have things like medical records that hold value to criminals, according to Higher Ed Dive.
It’s no coincidence that on April 1, 2020, the FBI released a statement warning that “Cyber Actors Take Advantage of the COVID-19 Pandemic to Exploit Increased Use of Virtual Environments.”
This threat has not lessened in the three years since the beginning of the pandemic, as many educational institutions are still adjusting and trying to find technology that works best for their needs and budget. Cyberattacks hold many dangers for the educational institution itself, as well as its employees and the students that attend it.
The Need for Enterprise-Level Cybersecurity for Education Institutions
As education begins to rely more and more on remote learning and digital interaction, organizations need to increase the sophistication of their cybersecurity at the same time. We’ve already discussed how education is at higher risk for attacks, which require enterprise-level protection against these threats. Let’s break down the financial and security dangers that come as a result of these attacks.
For example, Berkeley Education reports that DDoS attacks can cost schools and universities up to $40,000/hour. Not only this, but data breaches and other private information leaks can be extremely dangerous for the minors whose information the organizations house. This is especially true for online and digital learners, but even those who are in the physical classroom often use technology and digital platforms as a part of their daily education.
There are a few important ways that teachers and parents can work to increase overall digital cybersecurity. Let’s take a look at two tips that can beef up protection:
- Back-up data: Education institutions should back up important data in case of an attack or if the information is lost.
- Password management: Teachers and parents should teach students good password management, along with how important it is to have creative and unique passwords for accounts and devices.
While there are some simple ways that individuals can try to prevent cybersecurity attacks, there is an increasing need for enterprise-level protection.
Schools and higher education institutions need to seriously consider advancing their cybersecurity tools to the enterprise level. Most big organizations already have some form of protection, and enterprise-level cybersecurity has the power to handle wide swaths of data. The data encryption capabilities are stronger and the important information that schools hold becomes less vulnerable to dangerous attacks.
No matter how seriously a teacher or student takes cybersecurity, their strength is only as powerful as the tools given to them by the institution. This is why it’s so important for leaders to divert some resources to ward off attacks from cutting-edge technology and high-level digital threats. If universities and school districts are going to successfully combat things like ransomware or DDoS attacks, enterprise-level cybersecurity protection is necessary.
How Schools Can Prevent Dangerous Cybersecurity Attacks
With the help of high-level enterprise cybersecurity, schools and other organizations in the educational sector can work to protect their data and digital assets.
The first step is to determine where the organization is most vulnerable. K12Cybersecure reports the following as being the most common cyber incidents in the education sector in 2021:
- Data breach or leak: 36%
- Ransomware: 12%
- Distributed Denial of Service(DDoS): 5%
- Other (malware, meeting invasions, website and social media defacement): 45%
Other threats include things like Zoom bombing, phishing attacks, and email spam. After discovering potential cyberthreats, it’s important to take immediate preventative action.
Addressing Cyber Threats
Almost more than in any other industry, information technology is vital to the education sector. Instead of rolling back these helpful tools, leaders need to address potential cyber threats by increasing security and protection. Many institutions protect their information through a zero-trust security model, which TechTarget defines as a tool that “grants users access to information based on their identities and roles, regardless of whether they are at the office, at home, or elsewhere.”
A cybersecurity plan to protect both the student and the educator can be formed by:
- Creating cybersecurity policies.
- Making risk models.
- Regularly testing baseline tactics by using authorized internal cyberattacks.
- Constantly refreshing technologies and plans based on changing cybersecurity threats.
- Conduct system backups frequently.
Each institution may have its own unique cyber threats and require different protection methods, which is why it can be so helpful to outsource cybersecurity to experts who have the technical expertise and capabilities to address potential dangers constantly and correctly.
Protecting Information with Modern Technology
The value of building a secure technology infrastructure for students and teachers alike is clear. While it may require a little extra time and attention, digital information is one of your most valuable assets worth protecting. Cybercriminals often use highly modern and sophisticated technology to attack, spread malware, and steal information. In order to ward off these threats, organizations need to fight back and protect digital assets with similarly advanced cybersecurity.
Let’s take a look at how you can protect your information with modern technology. Here are some of the most widely used and effective tools that are used across industries to protect data:
- Antispyware: These programs are designed to help prevent external and internal spyware from breaching the networks.
- Antivirus software: Viruses can cause corrupted data, ruin software integrity, and can destroy costly devices. Antivirus software can prevent this from happening.
- Data encryption: This is the act of converting digital data from widely readable to encoded so that it can only be accessed by certain people. There are software programs that can protect the information this way.
- Cloud-based security: Essential for schools who use information-sharing technologies, protecting organization infrastructure through the could help stop remote cyberattacks,
- Access management: It’s extremely valuable to have protocols in place for data and device accessibility.
- Network security management: Many cyberattacks occur because the organization’s network is compromised, which is why many cybersecurity plans focus resources on increasing network security.
There are other tools that cybersecurity companies use to prevent dangerous attacks. Understand that all of these technologies come in various forms and strengths. The right cybersecurity partner will be able to provide the educational institution with the appropriate technology in accordance with their vulnerabilities. If you are interested in learning more about cyber defense, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has resources for organizations to prepare and respond correctly to cyberattacks.
In addition to these technologies, leaders should provide staff with security awareness training. This can help educate professors and teachers about how to prevent attacks, the dangers of cybercrime, and what they can do to help students learn more about the value of cybersecurity. Not only will this be important to help the institution as a whole, but it will also increase their general knowledge of how to stay safe online, even outside the classroom.
Are you looking to better understand the current need in education for cybersecurity solutions? Contact Agile Education today to find out how we can help you.