Preventing Cyber Security Attacks in Schools
School districts across the nation are targeted with increasing ransomware attacks. Threat Actors are restricting network and data access, disrupting school days, and gaining unauthorized access to staff and student personal information. Some of the nation’s largest school districts have experienced cyber threats and ransomware attacks. They are not alone.
According to University Business, 45 school districts reported experiencing ransomware attacks in 2022. And the FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) predict more criminal ransomware groups will target vulnerable school districts*.
School districts can take significant steps to fortify their networks and systems to reduce the impacts of cyberattacks by regularly:
- Conducting cybersecurity assessments to help identify and address vulnerabilities.
- Developing and practicing cybersecurity preparedness and remediation plans within a well-documented and communicated playbook.
Security assessments help districts understand their maturity levels within an industry-standard security framework, technical vulnerabilities, or other potential deficiencies that can expose them to unnecessary risks. Once completed, these projects yield valuable next steps districts can take to improve their organization’s overall security, allowing them to focus on what matters most ― the students’ learning.
Here are key assessments that are essential tools to ensure a school district’s’ resilience against attackers:
Vulnerability Assessment: A vulnerability assessment will identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities in a school district’s systems, networks, and applications that could be exploited by cybercriminals. While identifying potential vulnerabilities, this assessment will also help prioritize remediation efforts, maintain compliance, improve incident response, and enhance the overall security posture of the school district.
Penetration Testing: Penetration testing is a simulated attack on a school district’s network and systems to test resilience against cyberattacks. Penetration testing helps to identify potential security gaps and vulnerabilities in the IT infrastructure. It can also help evaluate existing security controls, test incident response plans, comply with regulatory requirements, and increase employee awareness of cybersecurity threats.
Security Audits: Security audits assess the effectiveness of a school district’s security controls, policies, and procedures. This assessment helps to identify gaps in security controls and provides recommendations for improvements. A school district needs security audits to ensure the protection of sensitive data, compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, and to build trust among stakeholders.
Risk Assessment: A risk assessment is the process of identifying potential risks and threats to a school district’s network and systems. This assessment helps to prioritize security measures and investments based on the level of risk. A school district needs a cybersecurity risk assessment to prioritize mitigation efforts, comply with legal and regulatory requirements, and build understanding, collaboration, and confidence among stakeholders.
Compliance Assessment: Compliance assessments ensure that a school district’s cybersecurity policies and procedures follow relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards. To protect sensitive information, school districts must comply with a variety of federal and state laws and regulations, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)*, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)*, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)* This assessment also helps to identify gaps in cybersecurity controls and a path to increased maturity.
Overall, these assessments are critical to ensuring that school districts are prepared to protect their systems, networks, and data from cyber threats. By identifying vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and gaps in their cybersecurity measures, school districts can take proactive steps to improve their security posture, identify and halt attackers, maintain business continuity, and reduce the risk of losses due to a cyberattack.
MGT provides integrated technology, education, and performance solutions to leading school districts, universities, and colleges throughout the U.S. to increase resiliency, defense, and response to cyberattacks. To learn more about protecting your school’s IT infrastructure, network, and cybersecurity with MGT’s Security Assessment and Managed Detection and Response (MDR) Services, please visit: https://www.mgtconsulting.com/capabilities/technology/
- #StopRansomware: Vice Society | CISA – https://www.cisa.gov/news-events/cybersecurity-advisories/aa22-249a-0
- Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) – https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html
- Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (“COPPA”) | Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov) – https://www.ftc.gov/legal-library/browse/rules/childrens-online-privacy-protection-rule-coppa
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) | CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/phlp/publications/topic/hipaa.html
- CISA https://www.cisa.gov/be-cyber-smart/facts
- University Business No improvements: Schools were hit steadily with ransomware attacks in 2022