Did you know that on average, hackers attack computers having internet access every 39 seconds? And having easy-to-crack usernames and passwords like “root”, “admin”, “test”, “test123”, etc., are simply making their job easier.
Data for educational institutions is highly critical yet not many of them considered data security as one of their top priorities. Failing to secure student data not only affects the reputation of the institute, but they are also obligated to pay a huge penalty to each compromised record. However, with the increase of information being controlled by technology and the rise in security breaches, educational institutions are slowly embracing data security practices.
On average, over 60 million students and teachers use the institution’s internet and other internal online applications in the US alone every day. So much information and data concerning students, teachers, and the institution are exposed and ready to access. Failing to secure this data can lead to huge losses of critical data and personal information.
Below are a few data attacks that effected some top educational institutions over the past 10 years. Data collected from ITRC resource center.
Some of the top few reasons for data breaches to take place in schools and universities are weak network firewalls, unauthorized access, lack of a cybercrime response plan, and more. But the most cybersecurity attacks take place due to human error – 95% of the time!
Following some guidelines and procedures can however help education institutions to better secure their data –
Storage of Data
Many educational institutes prefer on-premise storage as it offers total control over data. Physical security is a big concern here and steps should be taken to secure the data servers. The other option for bigger institutions, however, would be to go with Cloud-based storage options. Not only does it offer more space (easily expandable), it offers various options to protect data privacy. Here are a few pointers that can help you make a better choice –
Strong Data Privacy Standards
Educational institutions deal with various kinds of data. Data that transfers between student to faculty to administration. With stringent data security standards and policies in place, data breaches can be prevented.
Websites of educational institutions are at a high risk of getting attacked as it is an easy entry point to the database. Considering the huge amount of vital student and administration information the website holds, it becomes more important to secure it.
Things you should keep in mind before choosing a secure CMS –
Security Awareness Programs
As we have discussed before, 95% of cybercrimes take place due to human error. Hence, organizing frequent security awareness programs and educating students, faculty, and administration staff has become extremely important. The types and levels of security threats are evolving with time, which makes it important to have regular refreshes of security policies and compliance regulations. What should your awareness programs include?
Continuously Monitor Data
With huge amounts of sensitive data being stored and moved around in educational institutions, it becomes hard to find the root cause of the attack. It is important that data remains transparent and the IT staff knows where exactly the data is stored and being moved around. The solution? Data Loss Prevention (DLP) system. A DLP software provides a set of tools and processes that ensures data is not violated, lost, or misused.
Restrict Usage of Portable Devices
It is a common practice largely by students to carry around their work in portable devices (like USBs) and connect them to the educational institution’s computer. This is an easy but huge vulnerability and needs immediate attention.
Have a Contingency Plan Ready
Data breaches can be prevented by stringent implementations of the above strategies, but you cannot completely rule out the possibility. Always ensure that a disaster recovery plan is in place. The IT staff should ensure that even after a hacker attack, everything else can still work smoothly without any hiccups. Having insurance coverage to cover the costs after a data breach attack is highly important.
Technology comes with pros and cons. In this rapidly evolving technology world, it has become more important to protect data that is sensitive and personal. Schools and universities deal with plenty of critical information about students, parents, staff, and management. Information like login credentials, addresses, social security numbers, and more are at risk of being leaked and misused by the bad world. Education institutions are the second most vulnerable industry to be attacked by hackers. Implementing data security strategies can help in mitigating possible attacks.