The past couple of years have brought significant changes to education, with a rapid shift to online learning. As we all know, this transition was not without its challenges, particularly for school administrators. Fortunately, we’ve learned a great deal since then, but there’s still much work to be done to ensure the safety and security of our students and staff.
In this blog post, we’ll address six critical cybersecurity threats in education that schools should remain vigilant about. We’ll also explore effective strategies to mitigate these threats and enhance online safety in the Google Workspace and Chrome environments.
Understanding the Threat Landscape
1. Phishing Emails: Protecting Your School’s Sensitive Data
Given the wealth of sensitive information stored within school systems, education domains have become prime targets for cybercriminals, particularly through phishing emails.
To safeguard your school against these threats, it’s essential to enforce email security measures and educate both staff and students on how to recognize phishing attempts.
2. Securing Unvetted WiFi Networks
While schools can secure WiFi networks within their physical premises, the challenge arises when students and staff learn remotely. It’s crucial to ensure that these unvetted networks are private and secure to protect digital footprints from potential malicious users.
3. Device Theft or Loss: Mitigating Cybersecurity Repercussions
Accidents happen, and device theft or loss is a possibility for anyone. The key is how you handle such situations. Therefore, encourage your staff and students to report missing devices immediately to mitigate cybersecurity risks. Employ monitoring tools like GAT Shield for Chromebooks, which can track device geolocation, monitor real-time browser activity, and enable immediate action in case of loss. Additionally, GAT Labs for Education offers robust protection against device theft by continuously monitoring user typing styles and verifying their identity.
4. Ensuring Secure Website Access
In the course of their studies and work, students and staff frequently visit websites for research and information. Unfortunately, not all websites are safe, and some can distribute malware, steal sensitive information, or send spam. Schools can further enhance security by blocking access to certain websites for the entire school domain using GAT Shield.
5. Managing Less Secure Apps
Less secure apps pose a significant risk, as they can provide entry points for hackers into your users’ accounts. Take proactive measures to limit this risk:
- Disable sign-ins for less secure apps in the Google Admin console.
- Encourage users to question the necessity of granting access permissions to third-party apps.
- Utilize GAT+ to set up alerts for newly installed apps in your domain for review or potential bans.
6. Data Leakage Prevention (DLP)
One incident of data leakage can cause havoc in a school’s domain, leading to data breaches and security issues. Users should be educated on the importance of protecting online data and following the best file and data-sharing practices. DLP solutions like GAT Shield play a crucial role in the background by continuously auditing Google Workspace and Chrome environments in real time, ensuring comprehensive protection against DLP incidents.
Understanding Cybersecurity Threats in Education
In addition to the threats discussed above, the education sector faces an array of cyberattacks that can disrupt operations and compromise data security. Here are some common cyber threats in education:
- Ransomware & Malware Attacks: Ransomware, which encrypts files and demands payment for their release, has seen a significant increase in the education sector. Lower and higher education providers are particularly vulnerable.
- DDoS Attacks: Distributed Denial of Service attacks, which overwhelm systems with traffic, have disrupted critical testing periods in schools. Further education colleges and higher education institutions are more susceptible to these attacks.
- Insider Threats: Disgruntled employees or students can pose significant threats. Impersonating internal employees or student parents is a common tactic.
- Phishing: Cybercriminals often use phishing scams to deceive educational staff members, with universities falling victim to such scams. Phishing remains a top choice for malicious actors.
Understanding the Numbers
Statistics underscore the urgency of addressing cybersecurity threats in education:
- According to the World Economic Forum, there has been a staggering 300% increase in cyberattacks targeting schools and universities in the past year
- DDoS attacks have disrupted critical testing periods, with further education colleges and higher education institutions being more susceptible.
- According to Statista, the education sector ranks fifth globally in terms of the number of cybercrime incidents (418) in 2021-2022, right after the healthcare (479) and finance (1,729) sectors.
Addressing the Threats: A Comprehensive Approach
To address these cybersecurity threats effectively:
- Prioritize regular updates, staff training, and investments in cybersecurity infrastructure.
- Conduct periodic risk assessments to stay ahead of potential threats.
- Promote cybersecurity awareness among students, teachers, and staff.
Additional Insights: Common Online Threats for Students
In the digital learning landscape, students face various online threats that can impact their education and well-being:
- Digital Distractions: Students may be tempted to engage in nonacademic activities during school hours, affecting their academic performance.
- Inappropriate Content: Internet access can expose students to inappropriate or explicit material, raising concerns for their well-being and school compliance.
- Cyberbullying: Students may experience cyberbullying through various online channels, leading to emotional and psychological effects. Cyberbullying prevention is crucial and Web Filtering solutions like GAT Shield can help maintain a safe online environment for students.
- Online Predators: Online predators may target students, attempting to establish inappropriate relationships.
- Phishing and Scams: Students can fall victim to phishing emails or fraudulent websites, risking personal information and network security.
- Unauthorized Access: Insufficiently secured devices or accounts can result in unauthorized access to personal and school-related data.
To address these threats effectively:
- Start teaching digital citizenship early, emphasizing privacy, responsible communication, and content evaluation.
- Encourage students to critically assess the authenticity of content encountered online.
- Adopt multilayered cybersecurity measures, including defense-in-depth and zero-trust approaches.
- Educate end users, including students, on identifying and reporting phishing emails and scams.
- Prioritize student account security, as many incidents start with compromised student accounts.
Conclusion: Ensuring a Safer Online Learning Environment
Securing online learning in the Google Workspace and Chrome environments is a multifaceted endeavor. By addressing these critical cybersecurity threats in education and implementing proactive measures, we can create safer online learning environments for our community. Understanding the risks and taking a coordinated approach provides a roadmap to a more secure educational environment.
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