Why Attackers are Moving their Attention Towards the Education Industry?

Cybersecurity for schools is slowly becoming a hot topic for discussion amongst the security community. While it's a hot topic for security enthusiasts, it's even more popular amongst the hacker community. This article walks you through why schools are becoming a new favorite target for hackers and what you can do to help get your school's guard up.

Education has by far been one of the most impactful tools in the step towards world development. Technology has been an excellent addition to the school ecosystem which makes education a lot more easier to impart and also manage. Technology has brought about multiple changes which redefine the way schools have taught and managed operations all these years.

For instance, schools manage over thousands of students each year and thanks to technology all the student’s information are now on easy to use and retrieve with the click of a few buttons. Mobile apps have made the entire communication processes between students, teachers, management, and parents a lot easier. Even financial transactions can be undertaken within mobile apps to pay school tuition fees and other financially related payments.

Having looked at all the benefits technology and mobile applications in specific have brought about, it is only apt for us to visit the threats, all the information collected by the apps schools use are exposed to. 

In a recent incident which took place at a school in Columbia Falls, Montana, students and staff started to receive threatening text messages and emails concerning their identity and safety by an unidentified group of individuals which called themselves the Dark Overlords. This was something that came out right off a comic book, except it was all too real.

Superintendent Steve Bradshaw recalls this as a terrifying and a frightening experience. Hackers penetrated into the school’s systems and held the management at ransom to over $150,000 worth of bitcoins.

There has been a recent trend of hackers holding multiple organizations to ransom for bitcoins. However, what is extremely frightening is that these ransoms are held cost at the safety of innocent children.  A threat of this magnitude is something that shouldn’t, by all means, be taken lightly, especially since we’ve seen this particular group of hackers made famous for their attack on the big Netflix business. Other schools and educational institutions need to take note of this.

Like big businesses, schools also gather a lot of information about students, parents, and staff. However, unlike big businesses, schools do not have the budget to spend big on Information technology security. Even if they do, they may not realize the importance that cybersecurity for schools holds in the successful running of a school business. Schools carry a lot of sensitive data like birth dates, social security numbers, discipline records, health records and in some cases even financial data. With this information, there is no telling what hackers can do. In a very real example mentioned above, the student’s safety is at risk.

Every student these days have mobile phones and since mobile marketing has become a trending profitable business, hackers tend to want to exploit databases to sell to marketing agencies that earn them money in the process. Hackers can also fake student identities to use them as desired.

So in genuine interest, we’d love to advise schools to ramp up cybersecurity measures to ensure safety for their students but at the same time, we understand that schools may need to find budgets to help run this initiative. Appknox would love to help schools personally, you can get in touch with us on info@appknox.com.

Cybersecurity for Schools: Ensuring Basic Level of Security

Schools can take the following measures to ensure a basic level of security which makes it harder for hackers to penetrate into the school systems.

#1. Get a good awareness program going with good industry professionals to help educate your staff, students and parents about good cybersecurity hygiene.

#2. Encourage your stakeholders to create strong passwords which should strictly not be shared amongst friends or other people.

#3. Monitor what students and staff are browsing or downloading within your school premises.

#4. Ensure that no one outside the school stakeholder community gets access to the internet network your school is on.

#5. Implement multi-factor authentication to ensure that it is genuinely your students that are getting access to the school systems.

#6. Create good password policies that ensure the security of a user’s privacy.

#7. Use a good firewall for all your systems.

#8. Create a solid cybersecurity plan that helps you detail actions over the course of the month and year.

#9. Include mobile app security in your plan because most of your users communicate via mobile.

#10. Take regular backups of all data.

Although the above measures for ensuring the basic cybersecurity for schools will not earn you hackproof status, it will, however, put you in a much better place in regards to the safety of all your students and stakeholders. Appknox would love to help you set up your security strategy. Get in touch with us and we'll get right to it!

Published on May 15, 2018
Darell Khin
Written by Darell Khin


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