Cyber Security In The Education Sector

Large commercial enterprises and multinationals are not the only targets of modern cyber criminals and while cyber security is crucial in any business setting, this is especially so in education.

In fact, criminals are targeting educational institutions just as vigorously as they are targeting governments, medical institutions and commercial businesses.

Education institutions are particularly vulnerable to cyber security threats, mostly because of the number of devices they manage, the diversity in operating systems and the proliferation of endpoints.

Cyber attacks not only compromise the safety and security of teachers and school administrations, but also the privacy of students. Today millions of students are learning through technology in hybrid, remote, or in-class environments, which is why keeping their devices secure is paramount for students’ learning experiences and teachers’ work.

Teachers, parents and students all need to have the information they need to identify common cyber threats, as well as tips on cyber security best practices.

The education sector saw an incredible rise in cyber attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic as more and more people started using connected devices for school and university. Consequently, education institutions need to make cyber security a priority.

Despite the sector facing major challenges such as a lack of staffing and a lack of funding and resources, cyber attacks are no less frequent or less severe in education. In fact, they seem to be gaining ground in prevalence year on year as instances of breaches in schools and higher education are widely reported.

In recent years we’ve seen news of ransom attacks causing financial damage, like that on the University of Calgary in 2016 where the institution allegedly handed over $20k to cyber criminals, and malware attacks causing mass disruption. A similar attack caused the Minnesota School District to shut down, while IT professionals rebuilt the system.

The most worrying breaches are where student safety is compromised. Educational institutions are entrusted to safeguard their students, many of whom are minors, but a weak cyber security infrastructure can put them at risk. This was made all too clear when the CCTV in several UK schools in Blackpool and the footage was reportedly live-streamed on the Internet.

Parents were alarmed at the revelation, with further panic ensuing after pictures appeared in national media of cameras inside school toilets. It’s understood, however, that the CCTV streams hacked in Blackpool were mainly of the outside of the schools in question, and one inner stairwell.

It’s an unfortunate fact that, while cyber security in Education is necessary to protect against financial loss and prevent disruption, it’s also crucial to protect students from harm.

Each school needs to look after its data as well as manage the risks of using networked computers and services, and so everyone needs to follow some basic principles of good cyber security as outlined in these cards. Senior leaders and governors need to be aware that cyber security is a management and assurance issue. After all, poor cyber hygiene could affect a school’s ability to function, its reputation and its legal obligations to keep personal data safe.

What Teachers Should Know

As a teacher, staying informed and learning the best practices to protect yourself and your students is always the best first step to take in cyber security.

Phishing:   These attacks leverage social engineering by exploiting human emotion to trick victims into giving up sensitive information such as passwords or credit card details. Over 90% of cyber attacks today start with a phishing attack.

Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS):   These attacks occur when multiple systems flood the bandwidth or resources of the local servers.

Data Breach:   A data breach is a security incident in which private or sensitive information (such as student data) is accessed without authorisation.

Ransomware:  These threats involve hackers holding data hostage in exchange for money or other demands.

IoT Vulnerabilities:   IoT (Internet of Things) devices such as laptops, smart home accessories and tablets often lack security or are not updated on a regular basis, making it vital for teachers to prioritise security when incorporating IoT devices into the classroom.

Cyber Security Tips for Teachers

Now that you have an understanding of the cyber threats that educators face today, here are five steps you can follow to help prevent these attacks:

Encrypt Your Data:   Hackers today can obtain classroom data by intercepting it while actively in transit. You can prevent cyber attackers from stealing the data that you send and receive by using encryption.

Comply With Your Institution’s Cyber Protocols:   It is very likely your school already has cyber security measures in place to protect users. It is important to follow these provisions and contact your IT or Cybersecurity department if an issue arises.

Safeguard Your Devices From Physical Attacks:   Always log out of your computer when you step away. To keep passwords safe, try to avoid writing them down or entering your credentials within view of someone else.

Back Up Your Data:   If your work or institution requires the storage of student data, it is important to back it up to prevent attackers from targeting this private data in Ransomware-style attacks where you may be locked out until a ransom is paid.

Practice Good Password Management: It’s easy to take shortcuts when it comes to passwords. A password management program can help you to maintain unique passwords for all of your accounts.

What Parents Should Know - Cyber Security At Home

When it comes to in-person learning, schools typically offer reliable protection to students that restricts them from accessing harmful content, while also protecting them from a wide range of threats such as malware or unmoderated social media. This is usually achieved through the use of filters and blacklists applied to school devices or through the school’s network connection. However, with young learners turning to digital classrooms, parents may not have access to the same safeguards put in place by formal institutions.

Cyber Threats To Parents & Children

According to one report, three quarters of parents are concerned about their children's safety online and have major concerns about online threats faced by children. If your child is spending more time online, you may be wondering what these threats are and how to prevent them. Below we have outlined five common cyber attacks aimed at young web users.

Cyber Predators:   These are adults who use the Internet to exploit children and/or teens with the intention of inflicting harm.  

Malware:   Cyber criminals today often trick victims into downloading malware that can take control of their device. Some cyber criminals fake their malware as games, which can be especially tempting to children.

Malicious Ads:   These ads are used to spread a variety of unwanted messages or spam researchers.

Identity Theft:   Today’s cyber attackers are targeting children online to steal their identities and credit histories.

Online Gaming:   According to research from the Entertainment Software Association, nearly three quarters of families have at least one child who plays video games. With this many children actively gaming, phishing scams, viruses and harassment have become commonplace in gaming communities.

Cyber Security Tips for Parents & Children

As a parent, you are your child’s best protection against online threats like those mentioned above. Here are five steps that you can start following with your child today:

Teach Passwords and Privacy:   Help your children password protect all devices and online accounts. Teach them why creating strong passwords is important and never to share them.

Monitor and Communicate:   Communicate what comprises an acceptable, respectable (to themselves and others) online post and take the time to monitor your child’s online activity as often as possible.

Protect Identity and Location:   Disable photo geotagging on your iPhone and remind your child not to share any personal info online like age, school, address, phone number, last name or any personally identifiable data.

Use Secure WiFi:   Ensure that your home’s Wi-Fi includes encryption and a strong password to restrict outside access, and only share your password with those that you know and trust.

Use Parental Controls:   Many kids are given their first tablet or Internet-connected device before they can fully comprehend the power in their hands. Try using built-in parent control features to start taking precautions and monitor their usage as early as possible.

Cyber Security For Students: What You Should Know

Malicious cyber activity affects students in a variety of ways, typically in the form of malware and scams and as students joined classes this years using their personal computers and home Wi-Fi networks, the number of potential attack vectors has rapidly increased.

Cyber Threats for Students

Before you can prevent an attack, it helps to start by gaining a strong understanding of the threats faced by today’s students. Here are five types of attacks to be aware of:

Data Theft:   Cyber attackers know that students often have little understanding of how to properly guard personal and financial data being input online, typically for the first time. Experts say hackers can use this data for identity theft, credit fraud and more.

Mobile Malware:   Researchers at Check Point have recorded that mobile device attacks have increased by 50% since 2018. With more students moving from a desktop or laptop to smartphone use, it is more important than ever to take mobile security seriously.

Malicious Social Media Messaging:   According to a cyber security report on threats since Covid, hackers are taking advantage of platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp with scams to lure victims to phishing websites, which can compromise personal information.

Camfecting:    Many students today have a desktop webcam or camera built into their phone, tablet or laptop. Unfortunately, this can open the door so that hackers are able to remotely access and take control of a webcam.

Social Engineering:   Social engineering scams are among the top cybersecurity threats faced by higher education students. These attacks rely on manipulating users into revealing confidential information.

Cyber Security Tips for Students

Today’s cyber hackers are constantly discovering new exploits and strategies to compromise users. Here are five cyber security best practices to help protect yourself from them:

Avoid Sharing Personal Information:   Be mindful about the information you divulge online — such as school names, email addresses, home addresses and telephone numbers.

Invest in Virus Protection:    Ensure you have antivirus protection with anti-phishing support installed on all devices (desktops, laptops, tablets, etc.). Set it to update automatically and run virus scans at least once a week.

Keep Software Up-to-Date:   Be sure to keep your operating system, browser software and apps fully updated with patches. Even new machines can have out-of-date software that can put you at risk.

Be on Guard for Phishing:   Do not open email attachments from untrusted sources. You may be expecting emails from group members or teachers, but use caution when opening any attachments.

Be Careful What You Click:  Avoid visiting unknown websites or downloading software from untrusted sources. These sites can host malware that will silently install itself and compromise your computer.

Conclusion

As cyber attackers continue to exploit gaps and introduce new threats and vulnerabilities, teachers, parents and students must also equip themselves with the knowledge to protect their devices and personal information.

Advances in modern technology like online teaching has made education more accessible than ever before, allowing learners to receive the same high-quality experience and outcomes offered by traditional education via a virtual experience.

However, with these advances come with an expanded threat from cyber criminals. It is more important than ever to keep yourself safe. Following the tips above can help better secure your technology and personal information from the threats of cyber crime.

Berkeley.edu:   NCSCSwivelSecure:   CBC:   Infosecurity Magazine:   ENISA:   

Intel:  CybersecurityForMe:    Cyber Management Aliiance:

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