Why Protecting your Educational Institution is as Important as Ever During Covid-19
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought on a new set of challenges for the education system. With virtual learning becoming the new normal, it’s important to address the major cyber threat that has descended on educational institutions.
Recently schools are becoming especially vulnerable to cyber-attacks, ultimately costing them millions of dollars in damages, and influencing their reputation, not to mention disrupting the learning practices of their students. It’s been reported by Microsoft Security Intelligence that 61% of nearly 7.7 million malware (malicious software) attacks in the past month are against the education sector, making it the most targeted industry today. Common cyber-attacks have included phishing, DDOS, data breaches, ransomware, and IOT vulnerabilities.
Here are five easy-to-follow tips that are essential for institutions looking to defend themselves from the next potential cyber-attack.
1- Raise Student & Staff Awareness
According to research conducted by COSN (the Consortium for School Networking), over 90% of cyber-attacks begin with phishing, which is the practice of sending seemingly-legitimate emails that persuade students to click on links that install malicious software or reveal personal information. Raising awareness of these social engineering tactics are becoming increasingly hard to detect, as the hackers have become extremely professional.
Training staff and students to detect and report suspicious behavior within emails is the first way to combat phishing. If a staff member clicks on a malicious link, it is critical that it is reported ASAP. Malicious software spreads exceptionally fast and can cause major damage to your institution.
Performing regular training on the best practices and security pitfalls will enhance your cyber security posture tremendously. Training employees on a regular basis to recognize common tactics, such as phishing scams, is vital in fending off cyber-criminals.
2- Have an Established Incident Response Plan
What happens if you discover that you’ve been attacked when it’s too late? It’s unquestionable that every moment counts. The Ponemon Institute reports that 77% of businesses simply don’t have a proper IRP, which lengthens the response time and only increases the risk.
The following questions will enable your institution to create a successful Incident Response Plan (IRP): Do you have the right personnel and procedures to respond in time? Does the team have the knowledge to analyze the necessary information to guarantee data protection?
Assigning an incident response team that is familiar with your network topology and IRP to execute a strategic plan will serve as a key factor in fighting off cyber-crime.
3- Back Up your Data. NOW.
The average cost of a data breach in 2019 was $3.92 million. Unfortunately, that number will only continue to increase if preventative measures are not in place. Staying in control of your data and accessibility is critical if you want to ensure business continuity. Seems obvious, right?
Here are a few tips on how to ensure your data remains safe:
First, you must determine the data you need to protect. Set up a plan to have it regularly backed up and duplicated on off-site and on-site premises. This will reduce the impact of a potential breach on your internal operations.
Informing and educating your staff and students on what data they are responsible for and the consequences of a data breach will encourage them to want to protect it. This will give them the responsibility of how to handle data and will enable them to form some type of communication plan if they detect a breach.
4- Enforce Strong Password Policy
Password management should be one of the top priorities for any institution or business trying to enforce internet safety. Findings from the Ponemon Institute suggest that cyber-attacks caused by compromised employee passwords cost $383,365 on average.
It’s important to make sure all your staff and student passwords include capital letters, numbers, distinct symbols, and are at least 8 characters in length. To add an additional layer of protection, be sure to add and enforce a 2-Factor Authentication whenever possible. This will really ensure the security of your online accounts.
5-Monitor Your Network Security
It’s 10 AM. You are in the middle of giving an exam, your computer turns black, and you are unable to access your school platform. Who do you turn to?
It’s important to know who is monitoring your network and who is in charge in real time. How fast will your team respond? Do you have someone in your organization who you trust to detect a cyber threat, stop it, and prevent it from happening again?
Staying up to date with the recent cyber news and techniques will only enhance your security practices and protect your organization even more so. Implementing the given tips into your institution will help you take back control of your network and enable a safe environment for your students and staff alike.
Be proactive. Don’t be another cyber victim.