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2023’s Top Cybersecurity Priorities for Schools

News 10th April 2023

Why target schools with cyber attacks?

To the uninitiated, it would seem counter-productive to target an educational institution with a cyber attack when you would expect a banking system or government department to be a more logical target. 

The UK national Cyber Security Centre highlights an increasing number of schools being targeted by cybercrime and encourages all schools to protect their data better. 

This is why Wave 9’s IT Services for Schools – A Buyer’s Guide includes a checklist of security queries and discussion points you need to have with your Internet Service Provider. 

The reality of cyber threats in schools

GDPR & Personal Information

GDPR & Personal Information

Protecting the personal information of staff, parents and young people is paramount. Schools are targeted as they hold a broad range of data on individuals in large quantities. The unauthorised theft of educational records, medical history and a whole variety of personal data can be devastating for any individual for years to come.

Protecting the school budget

Protecting the school budget

From a budget perspective, cyber attacks can be costly. Ransomware and phishing emails, in particular, can have financial implications. Schools can easily fall victim to invoice fraud; commonly, this is where a cybercriminal sends invoices that look genuine in the hope that they get paid into the criminal’s bank account. Quite a few schools have paid away monies to settle what they thought were genuine bills from suppliers only to find they were fake.

Keeping the school operational and everyone learning

Keeping the school operational and everyone learning

With the ever-growing reliance on IT to administer school systems and processes, the threat and impact of cybercrime grow with it. The more we depend on technology for security and protection, the more damaging the effects of that technology being compromised.

Think about being denied access to financial systems, learning resources, progress and attainment data and completed coursework for days, weeks or even months. Education is slow to recover from ransomware attacks. For example, a recent study by Sophos discovered Higher Education reported the slowest ransomware recovery time across all sectors, with 9% of respondents reporting a recovery period of 3-6 months, more than double the global average of 4%.

These are just some ways cybercrime affects our community via schools and educational institutions. Read on for more information and advice about setting your cybersecurity priorities in your school or multi-academy trust.

Top five cyber security risks to schools

Phishing attacks

Phishing attacks are a significant common threat to any organisation.

These attacks often come in the form of emails that appear to be from a legitimate source, for example, a supplier or senior colleague but are designed to trick users into revealing personal information, make urgent payments or disclose password information.

Ransomware/Malware attacks:

A malware attack can take the form of a phishing email but is a more sophisticated cyber attack. Ransomware attacks can lock down school networks and hold critical data hostage until a ransom is paid.

Poor network security

Schools with outdated operating systems, software and poorly configured networks are more susceptible to attacks, as they may not have the necessary measures in place to prevent or respond to them.

Lack of security awareness

Lack of cyber awareness among school teachers and staff can lead to compromised IT infrastructure and data.

Schools may be at risk if they have weak or missing security measures on devices used by students and staff, such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets.

DDOS attack

A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is often carried out for reasons beyond the financial or extortionate.

Attacks are staged to cause significant disruption to the school day. In some cases, DDoS attacks have been carried out across the world by teachers and students themselves, possibly due to a personal or professional grievance with the organisation.

How can schools protect themselves from cyber attacks?

Here are essential ways schools can help defend themselves from cyber attacks:

  • Implement firewalls: Firewalls help protect against unauthorised access and can be configured to block specific types of traffic.
  • Regular software and hardware updates: Updating software and hardware can help close security vulnerabilities and prevent attackers from exploiting them.
  • Provide staff training: Training staff on cybersecurity best practices, such as recognising and avoiding phishing scams and social engineering attacks, can help reduce the risk of successful attacks.
  • Work with a trusted security provider: Partnering with a trusted security provider can help ensure that schools have the resources and expertise needed to detect and respond to cyber threats.
  • Use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication: Implementing strong password policies, and multi-factor authentication can help prevent unauthorised access to sensitive data and systems.
  • Conduct regular security assessments: Regular security assessments can help to identify and address potential security vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them.
  • Backup critical data: Regular backups of critical data can help ensure that it can be recovered in the event of a successful attack or data loss.

By taking these and other proactive measures, schools can help to reduce their risk of successful cyber attacks and protect sensitive data and systems.

WaveProtect Security

Defending your school against cyber attacks ultimately relies on good awareness, training, systems and processes. Still, even if there’s work to do there, you can ensure you have resilient internet and network security in place today. WaveProtect by Wave 9 provides enterprise-class security and web filtering services to help you meet online security and safeguarding requirements.

  • WaveProtect fully meets the needs of the latest Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance and your obligations under the PREVENT agenda.
  • Our long-standing partnership with Sophos, a leading Global supplier of IT security products, underpins the WaveProtect service.
  • Our experienced project and engineering teams manage migration from your current service provider.
  • Remote access and site-to-site connectivity facilities are included free of charge.
  • Network Managers have complete visibility of their services and can make local changes should they choose.
  • Central IT teams can manage multiple sites from a single dashboard.
  • Our Midlands-based support desk is a single point of contact for any issues or service change requests.

Safe, Secure Internet and Communication Services for Schools: A Buyer’s Guide

Our buyer’s guide includes step-by-step advice on procuring school broadband, Internet security and wired and wireless networks that help you stay safe and help protect your data and resources from the ongoing threat of cyber attacks. 

Download the buyer’s guide here.

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