With a constantly evolving technological landscape, education has embraced digital connectivity and innovation. This connectivity provides students, educators, and researchers with access to extensive data, real-time interaction with faculty, and more. Unfortunately, however, cybersecurity for education has become increasingly troublesome, as data breaches and ransomware attacks become more common.
It’s easy to assume that hacking students is a bit of thankless task; most college kids are famously broke and have little top secret information. Nonetheless, students share personal and sensitive data with their institutions, including social security numbers, financial information, medical records and more. In addition, students are the easiest access point for most hackers. Collegians typically access their university email and coursework via multiple devices (i.e. laptop, tablet, smartphone); though they may not be aware of the steps they should take to keep their data safe and private. Sending a phishing email to a college student with just the right amount of authoritative air could give hackers all the access they want.
This one is pretty simple – colleges and universities are home to most of the leading research and development teams in the U.S. And, because sharing information is a hallmark of scholarly pursuits, the security parameters for a website or third party program with sensitive data may not be as impermeable as one would hope. Corporations have a much bigger incentive to keep their innovations private. This is mostly to guard against direct competition, but even these large companies have been subject to devastating cyber attacks.
Why K-12 Schools?
Kindergarten through 12th grade school systems are not exempt from attack, either. While they may seem like low-level targets – less innovation, less sensitive data being stored on school servers – they are nevertheless a prime target for ransomware. These attacks seize a user’s computer system or network while the hackers demand a ransom to return it to proper working order. This type of extortion can be devastating for smaller districts with insufficient funds.
What Should We Do?
Cybersecurity for education is becoming one of the hottest tech topics around. Educational institutions and security experts are making it a priority to revamp security procedures and better analyze weak points to reduce the number of possible attacks. This includes safeguarding systems from overly ambitious students as well. Administrators, educators, parents and students need to first acknowledge that the problem exists. Only then can they work together to find a solution and create more robust digital safeguards against hacking.