Asset Management

Cybersecurity in education: the digital shield

Explore the significance and challenges of cybersecurity in education. Discover how the proper cybersecurity measures empower students to thrive.

June 29, 2023

In today's world, educational institutions face many threats that require our immediate attention. As schools, colleges, and universities increasingly rely on online platforms, digital tools, and student data management systems, ensuring cybersecurity in education has become essential. 

Think about it: educational institutions handle very sensitive data. From personal student information and financial records to research data and intellectual property, there are a lot of tempting targets for cybercriminals wanting to take advantage of vulnerabilities and gain unauthorized access. 

But it's not all doom and gloom! We will highlight proactive cybersecurity measures that educational institutions can adopt to strengthen their defenses and create a safe digital environment. 

School device management is no longer just about lending devices to students. Schools looking for the best management solutions must also consider issues regarding device tracking, data protection, web content filtering, app provisioning, and privacy compliant l.

Device security and protection of educational IT assets such as laptops, tablets, and mobile devices have evolved enormously in recent years. Their use has changed so much that instead of blocking their utilization in classrooms, teachers are encouraging it as a learning tool. This shift is evident in adopting programs like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and state-provided 1:1 device programs for students to borrow and utilize. It's impossible to ignore the potential of these devices to enhance the educational experience.

Why should we prioritize cybersecurity in education?

As we stated before, educational institutions handle sensitive data, making them prime targets for cyber threats. 

  1. We need to protect students' data. Educational institutions hold a treasure trove of sensitive information. We can protect this important data from unwanted access, breaches, and identity theft by prioritizing cybersecurity.
  2. Intellectual property. Protecting the intellectual property created and maintained by educational institutions is very important. These assets, which range from cutting-edge research results to ground-breaking course materials, must be safeguarded against theft and unlawful use. Prioritizing cybersecurity helps us preserve the integrity of academic work and encourages a culture of innovation.
  3. Do not forget about privacy. Every student deserves to have their private information kept private, as does their family. By putting cybersecurity first, we protect their privacy, protect them from damage, and promote trust between the institution and stakeholders.
  4. Protective Investment. Prioritizing cybersecurity in education is an investment in  the security, privacy, and overall well-being of educational institutions and the individuals they serve. 
  5. Prevent time disruptions. Cyberattacks can cause major interruptions in educational processes and waste valuable teaching time. Consider distributed denial-of-service or ransomware attacks. By prioritizing cybersecurity, we can lower the likelihood of such incidents, reducing disruptions to the educational process.
  6. Ensure Compliance. Let's not forget about the legal side of things. Educational institutions must follow regulations and legislation governing data protection and privacy. Institutions can reduce non-compliances legal and financial risks by prioritizing cybersecurity.
  7. Secure Trust Culture. Education institutions that prioritize cybersecurity safeguard their personnel, students, and the community. If stakeholders can be confident that their private information is handled safely, this fosters a culture of trust, confidence, and accountability.

Cybersecurity threats in education 

According to The State of K-12 Cybersecurity: Year in Review – 2022 Annual Report, the K-12 Cyber Incident Map has been tracking school cyber incidents in the U.S. since 2016, with 1,331 publicly disclosed incidents affecting school districts and educational organizations.

  • These incidents cover a range of types, including breaches of student data, teacher and community member data breaches, ransomware attacks, BEC scams, DoS attacks, website and social media defacement, online class and school meeting invasions, and others.
  • School community members, such as teachers, administrators, and school board members, may unintentionally share personal data and credentials due to a lack of training and guidance.
  • Without proper mentoring, tech-savvy students may be tempted to bypass cybersecurity controls or misuse their access to disrupt or harm others.
  • School suppliers and vendors may not prioritize strong security practices during procurement and implementation.
  • Both domestic and international online criminals take advantage of weak cybersecurity measures in school districts to steal money, extort funds, and engage in identity fraud by obtaining personally identifiable information.
  • Unfortunately, a lack of meaningful cybersecurity risk management standards and resources at the state and federal levels puts students, teachers, and community members at unnecessary risk.

Cybersecurity solutions for the education sector 

School devices are no longer necessarily hooked to an Ethernet cable and a desktop computer. Schoolchildren are not just prone to losing their stuff but are a potential threat to pickpockets or theft. Now, imagine these devices are commonly spread outside the classroom into every student’s home.

The sudden remote work and education trend also taught us the risks of bringing devices home to coexist in insecure networks, shady internet connections, and the cybersecurity risks inherently linked to internet usage. Phishing, malware, loss of sensitive data, and social engineering attacks targeting K-12 students are the most common possibilities.

Remote device tracking

Device security in the school system needs unique enterprise mobility solutions. Managing and securing these devices — and safeguarding the students that use them has become a huge concern as many kids aren't used to carrying around pricey technology; they frequently leave it unattended on their desks or in the playground, which makes it a tempting target for thieves.

Of course, the market has a series of choices for theft protection software to track a computer or a tablet. But there is a catch! The personal information of children is delicate and can cause trouble.

Track & recover stolen devices

If you track a stolen computer and access it remotely after they stole it, you're becoming a police sidekick: you can support their investigation, which can "ultimately lead to the identification and potential arrest of the criminals."

The chances of recovering a stolen device rely heavily on the available evidence. If the thief didn't set off any alarms or leave behind any clues, it becomes pretty challenging to retrieve the device.

Interestingly, most thieves don't keep the stolen device for themselves. Instead, they usually sell it or pass it on to someone they know. That's why the main focus is tracking the device's location rather than pinpointing the individuals involved. Closely monitoring and tracing its whereabouts will increase the likelihood of successful recovery.

When the dedicated police-IT team finally identifies the culprit and successfully tracks down a lost laptop, this long crusade would have proven you worthy.

Data security and compliance

Protecting student data and complying with privacy laws are vital aspects of cybersecurity in education. Geolocation data and personally identifiable information (PII), like student ID numbers and addresses, are safeguarded by law. 

At the same time, protecting all forms of student data is crucial. This includes personal information, identification details, digital files that may reveal identities, and technology-related PII, such as biometrics, metadata, and geolocation data.

Finding the right balance between data protection and tracking capabilities is essential. We must safeguard sensitive information at risk, but we can still have effective cybersecurity solutions. Some options allow for the recovery or deletion of private student data on devices to prevent unauthorized access, and others provide file retrieval functions, and remote data encryption, all looking after data protection. 

By prioritizing data protection and compliance, educational institutions can create a safe and secure environment while respecting student privacy. 

Security Infrastructure

Both physical and digital cyber threats affect school districts today. Physical security systems and protocols equip schools with the tools to handle a physical attack, while cybersecurity solutions support an internal infrastructure that protects a school’s digital data from unauthorized users and access. Adding multi-factor authentication and incident response plans allows schools to act quickly if sensitive information becomes compromised. 

A well-integrated cybersecurity infrastructure will also help schools

  • cover all device endpoints
  • secure their technologies
  • protect devices on their networks
  • Monitor and address vulnerabilities
  • Implement and test backups

This support reduces potential attack surfaces and gives engineers tools to automate IT systems at schools that continue their digital transformations.

Access management

Controlling access to school files and systems is one of the most important ways to manage the safety of a secure network. Access management should work under the principle of least privilege, which ensures that only authorized people can access specific resources they need. It also ensures that users won’t see files they don’t need or have access to. Isolating the most sensitive files protects them from a data breach at a lower system level. 

To set up access management for a school, IT teams must create user accounts for staff, students, and parents. Access management tools will then help teams: 

  • Minimized risks of data breaches
  • Enhanced control over user accounts’ accesses and privileges
  • Access control that drills right down to individual applications, APIs, and services
  • Enforce password and use policies with ease
  • find suspicious activity

Web content filtering

Web content filtering is a proactive measure that allows network administrators to create barriers against harmful content for students and staff. To create a safe environment, schools should filter access to any possible harmful information and malicious content that could compromise school and student devices. 

Filtering also allows schools to blacklist websites that aren’t needed for school. Limiting website access to only reliable domains reduces students' chance of finding bad content on the web while using a school system. If you receive  E-rate program funding, you’ll need web filtering capabilities in your tech stack to be CIPA compliant.

Network protection

As more devices come online, there’s more risk for school networks to become compromised and expose student data. Protecting a network means implementing security measures, such as: 

  • Firewalls
  • MFA systems
  • Cybersecurity training
  • Network segmentation

These measures should exist on both endpoint devices and school network infrastructure.

Backup recovery plan 

A backup plan is a carefully defined, implemented, and regularly tested solution schools can use to restore data in the event of device loss, network attacks, or accidental file deletions. This strategy will help keep information safe and restore your operations easily after a system failure since it provides a fast way to shut down a device and prevent unauthorized access from spreading across a network. 

How Prey can help

Prey offers specialized solutions to address the unique cybersecurity challenges, educational institutions face

  1. Data Protection: When it comes to data protection, keeping privacy and compliance at the forefront is essential; with our specialized solutions, you can confidently handle sensitive information in the best possible way. Retrieve files remotely, securely wipe data and disks on lost devices, instantly disable and restore to clean state lost or compromised devices, and encrypt information to prevent unauthorized access.
  1. Device Loan: You can boost your 1:1 program and easily handle your device lending programs. Keep track of due dates, get alerts when the time is up, and protect the safety of your equipment.
  2. Asset Management: Keep track of assignments, quickly manage hardware changes, and create labels based on status or class. Use remote actions to run unattended installations on several computers without any coding knowledge or prior technical experience.
  3. Tracking: With the help of Control Zones as geofences, you can easily ensure the security of your devices. Track device motions effortlessly and react when they leave or enter predetermined zones. Sending messages, locking gadgets, or marking them as missing will give you peace of mind and protect your borders.
  4. Anti-Theft Protection: If a device goes missing, Prey enables you to remotely lock, wipe or retrieve data, increasing the chances of data breaches.

Partnering with Prey helps create a secure digital environment for students, teachers, and staff, protecting their privacy and maintaining data integrity.

Conclusion 

In conclusion, cybersecurity in education is crucial for safeguarding students, staff, stakeholders, and their private data. By prioritizing cybersecurity, educational institutions can foster a culture of trust, protect information, and ensure uninterrupted access to valuable resources. Prey offers specialized solutions tailored to the unique challenges faced by schools. By teaming up with cybersecurity experts and implementing proper measures, educational institutions can create a safe digital environment that empowers students and educators to thrive.

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