Now that students and teachers have settled into classrooms for another school year, it’s a good time for school districts to ensure they have the right cybersecurity platforms and tools to protect their sensitive data.
Technology isn’t just opening new opportunities for innovative learning — it’s also opening opportunities for bad actors to compromise K-12 systems and exploit valuable student and teacher data.
As teachers begin assessing their students’ knowledge, IT staff need to be conducting their own assessments — on whether the technology and processes they have in place can withstand opportunistic cyber attackers.
Technology in the Classroom: The Good and the Bad
To prepare students for success in the 21st century, K-12 schools are adopting innovative digital learning technologies. These tools help support the growing focus on inquiry- and project-based learning.
Outside of the classroom, technology is also making school districts more efficient and effective in how they operate and communicate with stakeholders, including parents. But as more processes become digitized, districts are also struggling with the challenge of keeping sensitive staff and student data secure.
Contributing to the digital learning opportunities and to the cybersecurity challenges are new trends such as BYOD, connected classroom devices and open WiFi networks.
At the same time, schools don’t always have adequate resources for upgrading their infrastructure, and data security often becomes a low priority. This is a mistake.
Your Cybersecurity Checklist
School districts are responsible for doing everything they can to protect the privacy and safety of students and educators. This requires them to be proactive about improving their capabilities to counter ever-evolving cybersecurity threats. Here are seven basic steps every school district should take:
- Encrypt sensitive data: A cybersecurity incident is not a matter of “if” but “when,” and by encrypting your data at rest, you render it useless to unauthorized users.
- Secure all devices: Implement a mobile device management policy that gives you visibility and control of every device that connects to the network.
- Use web filtering: This technology not only helps prevent access to malicious websites, but it also helps schools comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act.
- Implement data loss prevention (DLP): For an effective DLP program, you need the ability to monitor all the inbound and outbound data flow and complete visibility into where you store data and how your users share it.
- Train staff: Use your staff as the first layer of defense against cyber attackers by educating them about mobile device safety, threats like phishing and strong password practices — among other cybersecurity hygiene basics.
- Educate students: Technology-savvy students don’t always consider the impact of their actions on the broader school community, and teaching them about being good digital citizens can go a long way.
- Update infrastructure: Seek solutions that strengthen your network and save costs while consolidating your security management to a single pane of glass for higher visibility and efficiencies.
In addition to these steps, have a cyber threat assessment performed to inform your cybersecurity upgrade strategy based on your vulnerabilities and biggest threats. Use our free Cyber Threat Assessment Report tool to quickly and easily analyze your school district’s current security posture and network activity and help identify gaps in your security program.
A partner of leading cybersecurity solutions provider Fortinet, Xiologix can help you deploy an advanced, end-to-end network security platform to address the unique challenges faced in K-12 education environments. Contact us to learn more.