Cyber-attacks are becoming more frequent, and the education sector is not immune from these cyber threats. Successful cyber-attacks can result in either permanent loss or public exposure of sensitive information and disruption of school business.
A cyber-attack is any attempt to gain unauthorized access to a computer, computing system, or computer network with the intent to cause damage. Cyber attacks aim to disable, disrupt, destroy or control computer systems or to alter, manipulate or steal the data held within these systems. In recent times, educational institutions have reported cases of cyber-attacks across the world.
But to help minimize the increased rate of cybercrimes, here are some strategies for protecting schools’ databases.
Strategies for Protecting the School from Cyber-Attacks
- Backup data. Schools need to prepare for bad days, even if they think nothing can go wrong. Having backups is crucial, as it is better to be safe than sorry. Schools can also store backups offsite to avoid getting infected if a ransomware attack hits the school’s cyberspace.
- Create a strong identity management strategy. Schools can no longer rely on traditional firewalls and virtual private networks. They need to start treating identity as a key element for protecting their virtual environment. There should be proper identity management of users, which includes authorization and authentication.
- Consider automation. Automating systems can also help IT teams save time while staying ahead of detecting and preventing cyber threats, especially if the data can live anywhere. Watching over schools’ virtual space manually is time-consuming, and most times, ineffective. So, consider automating control panels.
- Periodically scan and delete irrelevant files. Scanning files will help identify sensitive/high-risk information to ensure that data is in the most secure place.
- School IT teams should also consider using tools that can identify loopholes and vulnerabilities. Besides, schools that do not practice BYOD can enable remote wipe, which comes with mobile device management solutions. Remote wipe can track where devices are and erase data on those devices remotely if they are stolen or lost.
- Schools should also configure their systems and devices properly to prevent an attacker or automated malware from causing harm to the environment.
- Ensure there is cybersecurity education and training for the IT team and teachers and students using school-issued devices from home and accessing software and applications outside the school’s network.
- Encrypt sensitive data to prevent unauthorized users from accessing that information.
- Update software regularly. Updating software eliminates vulnerabilities that hackers can use to launch ransomware attacks and prevents anyone from accessing school systems without permission.
- In addition to updating software, schools can also Install anti-malware and anti-virus software. Anti-malware and antivirus software will help block malware and other malicious software from infecting school devices. Look for solutions with automated updates and anti-phishing support to tighten schools’ defenses.
- Use strong passwords. Using a strong password makes it much more difficult for cybercriminals to break into institutional accounts and portals. Create passwords based on non-dictionary words with a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols to reduce the likelihood of a successful hacking attempt.
- Enable multi-factor authentication for remote access to schools’ networks.
- Teach students and teachers to refrain from clicking on email links or opening attachments. Clicking on email links or opening attachments from unknown senders is a security risk as opening an ill-intentioned email link or attachment can lead to installing malware. Staff and students should be regularly reminded how to check if the sender is legitimate before clicking on anything.
- If the school shares a network with a neighboring school, they must ensure that both ends are properly secured.
With schools considering adopting educational technology, cyber-attacks could be a limiting factor. No school would want to endanger its students or workers and make them vulnerable. But these strategies above will help schools secure their end and ensure the safety of students’ and educators’ data. Teaching digital competence is also another one to sensitize young children about cyber-attacks and cybercrime to keep them safe from cyberbullies and illegal cyber activities.