Cyber security threats are constantly evolving, and security defences face an ongoing struggle to keep up. Cyber attacks against schools have been growing rapidly in the last few years. Educational establishments are currently more likely to suffer a security breach than businesses (Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2021). The illustration below shows the percentage of institutions that have identified a breach or attack in the last 12 months.
Technology development brings new threats
The Department for Education, alongside the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), have written to schools twice in 2021. Both alerts highlighted the increased attack levels and the urgency of securing systems.
It’s long been essential for schools to prioritise safeguarding and to seek to protect sensitive student data. The attacks can come in many forms, from typical phishing emails to malware via downloads, ransomware, and denial of service attacks.
Cyber security as a whole strategy is only really coming to attention now. Creating a culture of security is a known goal in the business world, yet it should also be the same in an education setting.
Even if a school suffers no financial or data losses, losses from an attempted breach are noticeable elsewhere:
- schools may need to invest in new security measures
- staff time will be taken up with dealing with the breach (senior management, communications, and IT)
- the wider staffing body may be unable to carry out their activities
- students may be unable to receive their full, rich curriculum program.
What steps you can take to successfully protect your school sites?
IT isn’t exempt from human error. It’s worth having a quick check to see that you’re doing all you can to keep your defences up to date.
- Use a firewall to protect all devices within your IT network from external networks, particularly those that connect to the internet publicly or over untrusted Wi-Fi Networks.
- Check the settings on all software and devices to ensure security is at its highest functional level. Disable and remove any functions or accounts you don’t need or use.
- Don’t use the default PINs or passwords that come with new devices; convey the benefits of a strong password policy. Also, consider two-factor authentication for access to mission critical accounts.
- Control access to your organisation’s data through user account privileges. Only give administrative or extra permissions to employees whose job function dictates a need for this.
- Only permit access to software from official sources, this is the only way to minimise the risk of malware being installed on devices.
- Implement anti-malware measures. There are a few options such as sandboxing, whitelisting or using free built-in OS defences such as Defender for Windows or XProtect for Mac. Whitelisting: only running administrator approved applications. Sandboxing: Running an application in an isolated environment with restricted access to the rest of the device and network.
- Enable the ability to track and erase any lost devices.
- Keep all devices and applications up to date to both add new features and fix any newly discovered security vulnerabilities.
- Set ‘automatically update’ wherever this is an option to be protected as soon as an update is released.
- Consider replacing legacy devices once the manufacturer no longer supports the specific hardware or software and doesn’t continue to release new updates.
Manage your IT stress-free.
Protect your Endpoints, Network and Cloud from Cyber Threats with M-Tech cloud-based Managed Security Suite. This cloud-based MSS logs and alerts to any breaches, unexpected changes, or attack attempts. It also identifies unwanted activity that can evade even the toughest traditional cyber defences.
Our M-Tech Managed Security Suite includes:
- Continuous Monitoring – Always-on threat detection in real-time
- Minimal hardware required – A small piece of unintrusive software is added to your endpoint device and/or network
- Threat Hunting Activity – The software proactively hunts for malicious actors in your network that have evaded security defences such as firewall and anti-virus systems
- Log Retention – Logs are stored for up to 12 months, with the ability to be retrieved as needed
- Microsoft 365 Security – Looks at Microsoft 365 as a whole and will log and alert about anything from rule changes to attack attempts
- Isolation and Remediation – Device isolation contains threats to protect the network with the option to remediate where possible
- Anti-Virus and Firewall Monitoring – Logs and alerts across many different types of anti-virus or firewall solutions
Keeping up with the latest regulations, technologies and defending against threats requires a huge amount of both planning and knowledge.
We deliver round the clock monitoring through our M-Tech MSS to detect and respond to threats, keeping you always protected.
Contact M-Tech here to chat about how we can help you to protect your school.