Cybersecurity in Education Has Never Been More Important: Here's Why
Cybersecurity in Education Has Never Been More Important: Here's Why
Technology empowers education in so many ways. However, without strong security measures, it makes it more vulnerable to cyber threats.

Cyberattacks cause significant damage. As a result of malware attacks, schools have to shut down for days to restore their systems. Phishing attempts compromise the privacy and safety of students. The sector also experiences significant financial losses due to ransomware attacks. Without robust cybersecurity measures, educational institutions cannot protect the safety of their students, many of whom are minors. This makes cybersecurity paramount.

Let's take a closer look at the state of cybersecurity in the sector, discuss the most common types of threats, and outline why increased cybersecurity has to be a priority in education.

Why Do Cybercriminals Target the Education Sector?
Cyberattacks are a widespread issue that affects all industries. The education sector, however, happens to be the most vulnerable. As Microsoft Security Intelligence reports, out of 8.4 million malware encounters in January 2022, 82.6% of all cases were reported by educational institutions. These are 6.9 million incidents in only a month!

With the introduction of online education, cyberattacks have become common. The pandemic has forced people to learn remotely. As a result, teachers and students have to work in a less secure environment outside of school. This makes them more exposed to various cyber risks.

Educational institutions are also an easy target for criminals. Compared to other industries, the sector is severely underfunded in terms of cybersecurity. Schools often don't even have a qualified staff member responsible for cybersecurity. Few of them can afford safety solutions or continuous training. At the same time, they are collecting and storing one of the most valuable resources—data.

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Types of Cyber Threats
With the advancement of technology and our increased reliance on it, cyberattacks have become even more frequent and dangerous. According to the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center, 1,180 incidents of cyberattacks have been reported by US schools since 2016. Here are some of the most common types of cyberattacks:
  • Phishing is a widespread type of social engineering attack. It takes the form of false links and fraudulent attachments in messages and emails. The aim of phishing is to trick a user into interacting with them and thus disclosing sensitive data or downloading malware.
  • Cybercriminals use ransomware to encrypt a user's system and demand ransom to restore their access to files.
  • DDoS attacks affect the work of the network of a targeted institution, causing operational disruptions. It could paralyze the work of an institution for days.
  • Data theft is one of the most dangerous threats as cybercriminals get access to sensitive information like names, addresses, phone numbers, medical and academic records, etc. It could be sold to third parties or used to demand ransom. Data breaches cost organizations millions.
Growing Importance of Cybersecurity
The escalating risks of cyberattacks call for robust security measures. The education sector has to focus on detecting and covering vulnerabilities in its systems. This requires constant improvement and updates that will keep data secure. Anti-virus and anti-malware solutions are vital to protect school devices from getting infected.

However, it's even more important to promote the culture of cybersecurity across institutions. This will help students, teachers, and administration prevent, respond to, and contain possible attacks to minimize their consequences.

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Security starts with education and awareness. Thus, it's crucial to invest in ongoing training for everyone involved. This includes administration, teachers, students, and parents. A large number of cyberattacks are successful due to poor awareness of victims. People are unfamiliar with the types and manifestations of cyber threats even though they use technology daily.

Weak passwords, lack of knowledge about the signs of cyberattacks, reluctance to enhance security with multi-factor authentication... Careless behavior is what often exposes individuals to cyberattacks, not the shortcomings of technology. Developing technological competence is everyone's responsibility.

To Sum Up
A lack of resources, knowledge gaps, and awareness issues make the education sector an easy target for cybercriminals. Therefore, it's crucial to enhance cybersecurity at all levels. Although it might be challenging due to budget cuts, institutions need to focus all the available resources to enhance safety tools and raise awareness on cybersecurity issues among students, teachers, and parents.

Only proactive measures and a solid security strategy will protect systems and keep people and their data safe. Unfortunately, no system could be entirely secure. However, our preparedness is key to minimizing risks.

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