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Blog 17-02-2022

Cybersecurity in education: take action sooner rather than later

Part 1 of our blog series about cybersecurity in education

By: Etienne van Bavel, security expert at CTOUCH

Personal details from students are exposed. Records fall into the wrong hands. Students who snoop around in the files of your staff. Could it really happen at any school? Sadly, yes! And the consequences can be immense. Consider criminal hackers who do not even think twice about demanding ransom. And who will cause you a significant amount of reputation damage. All because these criminals trick their way into networks and know how to identify server weaknesses.

Cases in point

The University of Sunderland is all too familiar with security breaches. It all culminated in October 2021, when they got hit by extensive IT disruption that had all the hallmarks of a cyber attack. Telephone, website and IT systems were down. Face-to-face teaching could, fortunately, continue as far as possible.

When the National Cyber Security Centre warned of a spike in attacks on educational institutions, Newcastle and Northumbria Universities were targeted by hackers in September last year. All online lectures were cancelled. Because it all operated through the universities systems. A living nightmare for the staff, students and alumni of the university.

When it comes to preventing cyber attacks, they are not the only ones that need to take action. Primary and secondary education also experience serious security incidents. Countless of these cyber attacks never even made the news. That’s why Etienne van Bavel, the security expert at CTOUCH, is keen to spread the message that there’s no ignoring these cyber attacks. Many education institutions still adhere to the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Yet, taking preventative action today is key!

How cybersecurity is handled today. Or rather, the lack thereof

The first question schools grapple with is, “What do I need to do to create a safe teaching and learning environment?” Or, in other words: what can be done preventatively? At colleges and universities, these questions are addressed daily by people who have experience in data security. But when it comes to primary and secondary schools, we see cybersecurity featuring somewhat lower on the priority list. Lack of budget and time are often the reason why.

Many schools have embraced digitalisation or are in the process of doing so. Touchscreens, for instance, now form one component of digital teaching. Whenever you connect your screen to the internet, it’s crucial to check how the school network is set up. Who is using it? Identify holes in your network and see if it needs fixing. Remember that hackers could be knocking on your door on any given day. There’s every chance it could happen to your school, and naturally, you want to avoid this. In short: act now to stop hackers knocking down your door!

Say bye, bye hackers

Is your school cyber-secure yet? What are the primary risks, and how do you take care of a safe learning environment? Read all about it in this whitepaper. Be sure to check out the handy checklist too! It has tips on how to best protect your school from cyber attacks.

Check the whitepaper!

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Also read the other blogs in this blog series: 

Part 2: Stronger together in the face of cyber attacks in education

Part 3: 6 tips for addressing cybersecurity at school

Part 4: Security top tips for your school to stay on top of things

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