Time for the UK education sector to prioritise cybersecurity

Cyber Security Education

As you probably know already, schools and universities are not immune to attacks from disgruntled employees or other insiders. However, there is another key issue for school leadership teams that is unique to the education sector: students!

Students are often more digitally aware than most teachers and other school employees. This can lead to new digital platforms being introduced into the school environment without staff being made aware.  This insider threat to schools from students is not malicious; instead, it’s an issue of negligence in some cases or lack of awareness in other.

While students and teenagers may be tech savvy, they’re not often very security conscious. The consequences of exposing the school network to a data breach or cyber attack is often not properly understood. They are also not legally culpable for any actions that might result in a breach, so there is less of an incentive to take responsibility.

Adults are also potential insider threats; a teacher may bring a corrupted USB stick into school with their learning resources, or school admin staff may open and respond to a phishing email without understanding what it is. This is why schools must keep on top of their security policies and enforce them across the whole school community.

Awareness Of The Threat Landscape

The general lack of awareness about the types of attack a school network may be subjected to, what they look like, and where they come from is a major problem for the school as a whole.

All parties – IT departments, network managers, teachers, school employees and students – must be made aware of the threat landscape with relevance to their internet and network usage. Regular training should be part of the schools’ IT policy, raising awareness of the consequences of cyber attack to the school and individuals personally – which could include disciplinary actions.

Network Protection

School networks need robust defences in place to protect from threats such as malware or DDoS attacks. Antivirus, web filtering, firewall, device encryption, mobile data management and penetration testing should all be updated regularly and reviewed to keep pace with new threats and technologies.

Managing User Privileges

An effective way of limiting the potential damage an insider threat poses is to rigorously manage who has access to the network, and what they can and can’t do.

Both staff and students should only have limited access to the school’s network based on their requirements, reducing the opportunity for malicious or accidental misuse of the network. Managing user accounts should also include regularly reviewing what access individuals require, blocking access to some systems if individuals no longer need them, and deleting users when they leave the school.

If you have any questions about Cyber Security in general or just want to have a chat, drop us a line at hello@cybersmart.co.uk

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