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4 Steps to Keep Schools Safe from Cyber Attacks

Cyber Attacks can be Stopped

Nothing has defined the last 18 months in education more than online learning. An unfamiliar medium for most educational institutions at all levels before the pandemic, online learning was transformed overnight from a backup education channel to the only education channel.

However, given that school districts and educators were mandated to get digital classrooms up and running as quickly as possible, ensuring that they were secure wasn’t a priority.  As a result, bad actors or hackers have seized the opportunity to probe for cybersecurity weaknesses.

 

In June, an attack forced UMass Lowell to cancel all in-person and online classes for a week after the school’s technology services were breached. Unfortunately, others have occurred since this time. This is unsettling for educators, students, and their families alike.

However, some of the most effective steps in preventing cybersecurity incidents are straightforward for school districts, educators, and students to implement.

 

Demystifying Cybersecurity

​With so much jargon flying around, cybersecurity is perceived by many everyday computer users as being far too complicated. Unfortunately, this leads some individuals to throw up their hands and accept the false assertion that breaches are inevitable and nothing they can do. To counter this attitude, school administrators should make cybersecurity best practices accessible to everyone. They can start by providing ongoing training sessions. The goal should be to push this subject into the mainstream and empower educators by fostering a cybersecurity culture as a core principle.

 

Stop Cyber Attacks by Promoting Fundamentals

 

Students learn how to use technology; it doesn’t take too much effort to securely teach them to use it. So here are four steps that all schools should be encouraged to adopt today to stop cyber attacks.

 

  1. Embrace the Password Manager
    Password managers can help boost cybersecurity. They can not only make recalling a password a breeze, but they can also empower users to pick the strongest passwords possible—no matter how long or complicated—since they can safely store them for easy access. Additionally, password managers can be instituted districtwide.

 

  1. Mandate Multi-Factor Authentication
    Having a strong password is only the first part of the equation to ensure your accounts are secure. The second is multi-factor authentication (MFA) which provides a double layer of protection as users log in to an account. If a strong password is a lock on the door, then MFA is the deadbolt.

 

  1. Use a VPN
    Using a virtual private network (VPN) is especially important for remote students who can log in to classes and do schoolwork anywhere. VPNs encrypt data and hide your IP address, even on public Wi-Fi networks. Moreover, VPNs can be easily installed on any device.

 

  1. Set Guidelines
    ​Guidelines that ensure uniformity for device settings are imperative for schools and educators, especially if workspaces or devices are shared. In addition, having uniform policies about which apps are granted access and which are not, and what can and cannot be downloaded, and having an outside cybersecurity organization monitoring activity, will help in the fight against hackers.

By demystifying cybersecurity within your school district and implementing easy-to-use security steps, administrators and educators will create a more secure digital learning space and lay the groundwork for good cybersecurity hygiene for all.

 

SACS Consulting and Investigative Services, Inc. has Comprehensive Security Solutions

 

We work in NEO schools on their physical security, cybersecurity, and vulnerability assessments.

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