Organizations of all types are facing cybersecurity risks, including school districts. With a majority of schools switching to online learning starting in 2020, the risks increased. Networks were overwhelmed and bad actors had a plethora of opportunities to launch phishing attacks.
Increasing in 2020 and continuing throughout 2021, organization and educational institutions saw high levels of ransomware attacks. But there are things that school district IT teams can do to combat attacks today and moving forward.
Defending Against Cyberattacks
School districts must understand that setting up defense systems will have to be included in the budget since Cybersecurity is critical and cannot be an afterthought. Setting up systems and educating staff is just as important as making sure school districts are utilizing the right resources that are most affordable and useful to them.
Prevention and Awareness
Making sure that everyone is aware of signs to look for like suspicious emails, links, and unusual activity is important. This is the first line of defense. The entire district must be trained on security awareness. Not only do they need to know how to identify them, but they also need to know what to and not to do when they are faced with one of these issues.
Technology is your best tool against spam and malware. Anti-spam and anti-malware, software-defined WAN, real-time endpoint protection, detection, and automated response solutions will all be critical to safeguard networks. Using individual internet-facing apps and network firewalls will be vital to keep internet-facing applications separate from back-office applications. Learning systems and other externally facing systems should be fortified by web application firewalls.
Develop a Response Plan
Use your IT teams, administrators, and other staff to create a cybersecurity incident response plan that will guide everyone through each step in the event of a security breach. Once this plan is set up, test it, and continually update and maintain the plan. Hackers are always improving and finding new methods to wreak havoc, your response plan should try to stay a step ahead.
As these cyber risks persist around the country, the U.S. government needed to step in. The U.S. Senate did just that, passing the K-12 Cybersecurity Act directing the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to conduct a comprehensive study of cybersecurity risks facing the nation’s schools. It goes even further by developing recommendations and resources for schools to use to protect themselves.
Signed by President Joe Biden on October 8th, the act gives the director of the CISA 3000 days to complete the study and get the recommendations and online training toolkit posted on the Department of Homeland Security website. Results of the study will also be posted for school districts to review.
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