Cybersecurity has become one of the most concerning issues for commercial establishments and businesses worldwide – and that does not liberate the education sector. Cybersecurity in education is equally important because it is now among the top five industries most hit by ransomware.
Still, according to IBM Education Ransomware Study, more than 59% of education professionals have never had a single training on cybersecurity.
That fact is even more alarming given that more than 60% of the professionals working in education handle confidential data. How to address these challenges?
Education Sector – An Easy Target For Cybercriminals
With an overnight industry shift due to Covid-19, the education sector had to unlearn and reevaluate everything it knew while keeping pace with the usual logistics of academia. Simultaneously, it became an area of interest for cybercriminals because it failed to upgrade everything in such a short time.
Therefore, liberating cybercriminals to use advanced tools and tactics to take advantage of the situation. There are many other reasons why the education sector is a comparatively easy target for cybercriminals, including:
- Nearly 80% of the educators are using traditional learning platforms for online teaching
- 60% of professionals in the education sector admit to using personal devices for work
- Almost 60% of educators acknowledge that they do not know how to respond to a cyberattack
Let’s review the statement “humans are the weakest link in cybersecurity” and its consequences. It substantially defines the importance of cybersecurity in education. It worsens when you realize the academic staff does not effectively respond to a cyberattack.
Consequently, due to traditional unprotected means of data storage and lack of cybersecurity awareness and training, the education sector continually expands the risk of professional and personal data leaks.
The following are the significant reasons why cybercriminals target the education section:
- Reputational damage to students, staff, and their families
- The education sector has data worth up to $246 per stolen record on the black market
- Cybercriminals always treasure the data held by educational institutes
- To adversely impact the operations and productivity of an institution
- To get their hands on the valuable research work carried out by academic institutions
Cybersecurity Threats In the Education Sector
According to VMware, one in every three universities and colleges (36% of educational institutions) becomes a victim of a successful cyberattack every hour. So, what are the top five threats relating to cybersecurity in education?
Spear Phishing And BEC
Cybercriminals have gained control of multiple academic institutions using spear phishing, resulting in devastating losses. According to a Business Line story, spear-phishing tactics targeted over 1000 institutions, schools, and universities in the third quarter of 2021.
Threat actors also use BEC attacks to target education-related groups. According to Barracuda, Gmail accounts are the primary channel for initiating 86% of all BEC attacks against academic organizations.
According to the FBI, schools have become the most common ransomware attack targets.
Quite recently, in March 2021, the UK-based Harris Federation suffered a ransomware attack resulting in more than 37000 students being unable to access their coursework.
For example, the University of Northampton, in March 2021, fell victim to a DDoS attack which led to server and system disruption institution-wide.
A lack of awareness is a significant factor in the success of any cyberattack. It might be due to staff or students who aren’t adequately trained in basic cyber hygiene or inadvertently damaging the network. Unfortunately, more than 60% of academic professionals are unaware of cyberspace.
Data breaches in the education industry have long been prevalent since academic institutions contain a large stockpile of important information, including employees’ and students’ personal and professional records.
For example, Stanford Graduate School of Business recently suffered a data breach resulting in 14TB of data leak.
Data breaches expose personal data from faculty and students, with catastrophic results such as the case on this tweet.
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How To Defend Against These Cyberthreats
Cybersecurity in education is crucial for several reasons, the most important of which is to protect students’ safety and privacy. So, here are some practical actions educational institutions may take to safeguard educational institution from cyber threats and other digital dangers.
Start With the Biggest Threat: Phishing
Everyone, from faculty to students, should be able to identify and report phishing emails.
Deploying phishing simulations and understanding which users are more prone to engage with these is the safest and quickest way to close the door on attackers and avoid ransomware attacks and catastrophic losses.
Enforce Best Cybersecurity Practices
To provide an extra layer of protection to an academic organization’s cybersecurity system, enable and enforce best cybersecurity practices such as strong passwords, keeping software and hardware patched and updated,
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), and other appropriate cybersecurity best practices across all endpoints and business networks.
Build Cyber Culture
Organizations need to ensure their staff understands the implications of not following the procedures and their role in keeping the organization safe.
Building strong cyberculture, where good habits make for a strong line of defense, is mandatory.
Incident Planning And Response Training
Educational institutions might also invest in cyber event planning, response policies and training for their IT employees.
It assists the company in developing its own effective cyber incident response strategies, safeguarding the institution from the damage cyberattacks can cause.
Cybersecurity Awareness And Training
Academic organizations must ensure that everyone – students, instructors, and employees – understands how to recognize social engineering attacks and deal with them.
All personnel should be trained in cybersecurity fundamentals to raise awareness of various cyber threats and deal with them. It is critical for improving the human security layer, which can only be accomplished via education and training.
The importance of cybersecurity in education is a thought-provoking concern, given that schooling has made it to the top five most profitable and easy targets for cybercriminals.
Nonetheless, with a host of cybersecurity concerns hounding the education business, now is the time for educational institutions to take the required precautions and remain ahead of threats.
Human error, however, plays a substantial part in each of these cybersecurity risks. The good news is that by improving general cybersecurity training and knowledge of attacker motivations and techniques, educational institutions may better protect themselves against cyberattacks.