The Security Challenges of K-12 IT Directors

Schools inside the K-12 spectrum have become a frequent target for cyber threats that seek to hold both data, and infrastructure, hostage. Learn the challenges IT directors face, and what concerns them the most regarding the implementation of security against data breaches, ransomware, and other attacks.

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For the last year, we have been at Prey working hand in hand with K-12 schools and other educational institutions to sync with their security and device management concerns. Therefore, we’ve heard countless different problems they face every day at their institutions.

These problems can sometimes be present, keeping IT directors up at night, or looming in the distance, threatening to strike at any given moment. The cybersecurity industry grows based on this paranoia, but it is certainly better to prepare defenses ahead of time than assuming nothing will go wrong.

Cybersecurity Concerns in K-12

According to the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) 2018-2019 Annual Infrastructure Report, the top three priorities for K-12 education IT leaders are:

  • Data security (aka cybersecurity)
  • Cost-effective/smart budgeting
  • Data-driven instruction and decision

In February, the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center released, The State of K-12 Cybersecurity: Year in Review, a first-of-its-kind report on cyber incidents affecting U.S. public elementary and secondary (K-12) education institutions in 2018. This report also confirms the fact that as schools increasingly rely on learning technology, they also are experiencing a rise in cyber risks.

In fact, the report finds that the most frequent form of attack in the K-12 environment to be data breaches and that student data was included in more than 60 percent of those attacks. Phishing attacks, ransomware and malware incidents, denial of service attacks and website defacement also were reported.

Clearly, the IT job at k-12 institutions requires significant security capabilities.

Addressing K-12 IT Pain Points

The conversations between Prey and its education customers echo the concerns uncovered in the CoSN survey. Our customers call out the following issues in their daily work:

Budget – IT managers must optimize limited financial resources to cover buying and maintaining equipment, software licenses, security software, collaboration tools, and network maintenance. They also need to be able to justify their purchasing decisions to school administrators.

Device Fleet Management – Managers need to execute actions to all devices remotely and simultaneously (on-demand, scheduled or workflows). They need to know the number of devices protected; their status and configuration as dictated by profiles or security rules.

Risk assessment – Managers need tools to track the number of computers lost, the number off-campus at any given time, software updates, as well as ways to determine which devices are/are not compliant and which devices are most at risk.

Data Protection and Compliance – Schools are legally responsible for student data protection and data removal when it’s no longer necessary.

Insecure Internet – The entire educational community – students, parents, teachers, administrators – share their data over the Internet on both secure and insecure sites and with secure and insecure third-party applications.

Internet Dependent – Yet without an Internet connection, it’s impossible to recover data or devices.

Ultimately, the educational IT departments are responsible for controlling mobile devices without breaking the law or inadvertently allowing remote access by unauthorized persons.

How Can Prey Help?

The result of these conversations was the release of Prey for Education, a couple of weeks ago. With that, we aimed to help our users in Education to begin to better address some of these complications, and grow towards their needs in the future.

The goal of Prey for Education is to support the continually expanding, cash-strapped role of IT managers and administrators at educational institutions in the United States and worldwide.

Together, Prey aims to become an ally for IT administrators in education, offering a low cost, flexible, and optimized tool for their fleets. Furthermore, our team continues to monitor these issues and moves conversations with schools forward to further develop more solutions.

What does Prey for Education address:

  • Automated device security and management for work optimization.
  • Accountable device management with a thorough inventory.
  • Risk alerts for quick reaction, and data compliance protection.
  • Help raise awareness about the digital citizenship of students, teachers, and staff.

Learn more about our recently released tools in our educational page! We’ll continue working for our schools and hope to continue these partnerships in the near future to help create safer digital learning environments.

About the author

Nicolas Poggi

Nicolas Poggi is the head of mobile research at Prey, Inc., provider of the open source Prey Anti-Theft software protecting eight million mobile devices. Nic’s work explores technology innovations within the mobile marketplace, and their impact upon security. Nic also serves as Prey’s communications manager, overseeing the company’s brand and content creation. Nic is a technology and contemporary culture journalist and author, and before joining Prey held positions as head of indie coverage at TheGameFanatics, and as FM radio host and interviewer at IndieAir.