As the academic year kicks off, schools are being cautioned about potential cyber threats. Unlike business enterprises, which are frequent targets of targeted cyberattacks, educational institutions are perceived as easy prey due to their often less sophisticated security measures.
The National Cyber Security Centre has emphasised the need for stringent security protocols to counter any potential threats and avert disturbances.
Although no immediate spike in threats has been observed as schools resume sessions, any cyber breach at the start of the term can lead to intensified repercussions.
Gareth Dalton, Managing Director at Techn22 Limited, mentions, “The importance of reinforcing cybersecurity infrastructures cannot be overstated. It’s paramount that institutions, especially educational ones, invest in regular staff training, ensure up-to-date software patches, and promote a culture of digital vigilance.”
Highlighting summer habits, it was noted, “Individuals use their personal computers and mobiles for leisure during the summer. If schools have permitted devices to be taken home or students bring personal devices, these devices could harbour harmful malware that poses risks in the educational setting, unlike those within a business where “IT” can control the access and security measure deployed.”
Recent incidents underscore these concerns. Last year, an academy trust in Hertfordshire witnessed a crippling cyberattack affecting six of its schools. Just this past week, Debenham High School in Suffolk experienced a cyber intrusion, causing its entire IT system to crash right before the new academic session.
Constrained budgets might result in schools having inadequate cyber defences. Fundamental digital practices, such as two-factor authentication and regular software updates, to guard crucial information are championed. The need for constant reminders to staff and students about cybersecurity best practices, like maintaining strong passwords and evading dubious downloads, is imperative.
Every individual, from staff to students, plays a role in ensuring a safe cyber environment. A recent study, partnered with University College London disclosed a concerning trend: one out of every seven students aged 15 might fall prey to deceptive phishing emails.
Highlighting the treasure trove of information schools possess, Spencer Starkey from SonicWall labeled educational institutions as “data hubs”, appealing for cybercriminals. He urged schools to prioritise cybersecurity, especially given the surge in online educational tools.
The Department for Education iterated that while educational institutions must proactively manage their cyber risks, they are also closely monitoring any reported breaches and providing support where needed.
The closing note remained optimistic, asserting that there’s no concrete data indicating a surge in such cyber incidents.
If you are an Academy or other educational establishment, and wish to discuss how Techn22 can help bolster your cyber awareness, get in touch.