School IT Blog

The Importance of Cyber Security in Education

Sun 05 January, 2020

School IT systems contain a huge amount of sensitive data concerning both students and staff, so the prospect of a security breach can be incredibly disconcerting. There are a number of ways that cyber security in education can be bolstered to prevent an attack and minimise the damage if a crisis does happen.


Why do cyber crimes occur in schools?

Unfortunately, schools and educational establishments are often targets of cyber crime. Whilst banks and medical practices may seem like obvious targets for such attacks, these types of businesses tend to have more sophisticated cyber security than schools.
School IT systems often have weaknesses that are easy to exploit because of things like outdated software, insecure passwords or insufficient malware protection. Whilst almost all schools will have filters and blocks in place on their IT systems, these alone are not enough to prevent a security breach.
One of the other reasons that schools can be left vulnerable to cyber attacks is a lack of training on the importance of online safety in educational establishments. Visiting unsafe websites and sharing login details leads to the vulnerabilities in the IT system being exposed.


Types of cyber attack

There are many ways a cyber attack might occur, leaving sensitive data exposed and school operations at a standstill. These include malware, phishing, ransomware, and password attacks, and each in varying forms. Malware can be inadvertently downloaded by clicking on certain links, email attachments and pop-ups or by visiting infected websites. On the other hand, password attacks and phishing are more targeted cyber-crimes that try and directly steal or access information.
Some common signs of a breach or attack are devices freezing or you not being able to control them, programs operating much slower than usual or not responding, a lack of hard drive space and pop-ups. Your malware protection and security systems should be preventing these, so their occurrence suggests your cyber security has been breached.


How to prevent cyber attacks

One significant step you can take towards preventing cyber attacks is to consolidate and update your school’s IT system. Outdated software is much more vulnerable to security breaches, and using multiple systems means having to manage multiple login details and security settings. Your data is safest in one consolidated, up-to-date IT system.
As well as your IT systems, you should ensure that your Wi-Fi network is secured and that all your devices have malware protection and firewalls installed on them. These will ensure that most threats are stopped before they have a chance to infiltrate your system. Just as a biological virus adapts to become immune to a certain medicine, malware changes to find a way around old security systems, so check for updates regularly.

Training both your students and your staff on the latest e-safety procedures is essential to prevent cyber-security breaches. In an educational setting, the dangers of sharing accounts, using easy-to-guess passwords, and visiting unsafe websites must be taught, and it is a good idea to have staff monitoring the way students use the internet – some filters and cyber security can be circumvented so staff need to remain vigilant.

As well as doing your utmost to prevent attacks from happening in the first place, you should also have a procedure in place to minimise any potential damage in case a security breach does happen. It’s important to discuss this procedure with your IT support so that you can get advice specific to your IT system.

If you have concerns about the security of your school’s IT system or want to learn more, take a look at our security services.