Strengthening Your K-12 Cybersecurity Practices for the Upcoming School Year

Strengthening Your K-12 Cybersecurity Practices for the Upcoming School Year

In today's digital age, K-12 school districts face a variety of cybersecurity threats that can compromise the security and privacy of their systems, data, and students. In a recent survey by District Administration and ENA, most district leaders (72 percent) identified cybersecurity as a key priority, but only 14 percent of leaders felt very prepared to deal with a cyberattack. Education has become one of the most frequently targeted sectors for cybercriminals, yet many districts still lack funding, resources, and staffing to adequately prepare for and prevent cyberattacks.

Top Cybersecurity Threats for K-12 School Districts

According to the nonprofit K12 SIX, there were over 1,600 cyber incidents reported by K-12 public schools and districts between 2019-2022. Here are some of the top cybersecurity threats facing K-12 school districts:

1. Data Breaches:

Schools collect and store various types of personal information about their students, such as names, addresses, social security numbers, and academic records. A data breach can occur due to vulnerabilities in systems or human error, leading to unauthorized access and potential misuse of sensitive data.

2. Ransomware Attacks:

Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts files and demands a ransom payment in exchange for their release. School districts can be attractive targets for ransomware attacks as they often store a significant amount of sensitive data, including student records. A successful ransomware attack can disrupt school operations and compromise the privacy of students and staff.

3. Phishing Attacks:

Phishing is a common cyber threat where attackers send deceptive emails or messages to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information or clicking on malicious links. Phishing attacks can target school staff, students, or parents, aiming to gain access to login

4. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks:

DDoS attacks aim to overwhelm a network or website with a flood of traffic, rendering it inaccessible. School district networks can be targeted by DDoS attacks, disrupting online learning platforms, websites, or other critical systems, causing inconvenience and downtime.

5. Other Cyber Incidents:

A variety of other incidents and threats, such as insider threats, inadequate endpoint security, and cloud account compromise can disrupt school operations and disclose data.

6. Lack of Security Awareness and Training:

Insufficient cybersecurity awareness among staff, students, and parents can expose the school district to various risks. Without proper training and education on cybersecurity best practices, individuals may unknowingly fall victim to phishing attacks or engage in unsafe online behaviors.

To mitigate these cybersecurity threats, K-12 school districts should implement a multi-layered security approach that includes robust network infrastructure, regular security assessments, user awareness programs, secure configurations, data encryption, strong access controls, and incident response plans. Additionally, collaborating with cybersecurity professionals and staying updated on the latest threats and best practices is crucial for maintaining a secure digital environment.

Recommended Cybersecurity Standards for K-12 Districts

In our Meeting the K-12 Cybersecurity Challenge webinar presented with K12 SIX co-founders Doug Levin and Erik Lankford, these K-12 technology and cybersecurity experts recommended a set of baseline cybersecurity risk management best practices for K-12 districts.

These recommended standards include:

1. Sanitize Network Traffic to/from the Internet

  • Filter out malicious web content
  • Monitor and filter email
  • Segment & limit exposed services

2. Safeguard Student, Teacher, and Staff Devices

  • Restrict administrative access
  • Apply endpoint protection

3. Protect Student, Teacher, and Staff Identities

  • Protect user logins
  • Password & account management
  • Minimize 3rd party risk

4. Perform Regular Maintenance

  • Install security updates
  • Data protection and backups
  • Cybersecurity training for staff
  • Cyber Incident Response

Empower K-12 School and District Leaders and Employees to Reduce Cybersecurity Risk

Implementing a comprehensive cybersecurity awareness training program can help empower your employees to recognize and respond to security threats and elevate your cybersecurity culture.

Vector Solutions’ Cybersecurity Awareness Training for educational leaders and school staff helps educate your employees to protect themselves and increase security across your district.

Courses are delivered through the award-winning Vector Training system, so you can easily assign training and manage compliance for employees across your district.

With a comprehensive training program that can be utilized throughout the school year, you’ll keep cybersecurity top of mind – increasing awareness and reducing risks.

Online K-12 Cybersecurity Awareness Courses

Cybersecurity Awareness for Educational Leaders

  • Creating a Cybersecurity Culture
  • Incident Preparedness and Management Planning
  • Laws and Global Compliance Standards
  • Safeguarding Against Social Engineering Attacks

Cybersecurity Awareness for Employees at Educational Institutions

  • Security Awareness Essentials
  • End-User Best Practices
  • Social Engineering
  • Classifying and Safeguarding Data for Organizational and Personal Use

A single cyberattack can wreak havoc on a district. But an effective training program can help increase security, keep students and staff safe, save time and money, and most importantly, prevent disruptions to teaching and learning!

Download our Cybersecurity Awareness Training brochure to learn more.

Want to Know More?

Reach out and a Vector Solutions representative will respond back to help answer any questions you might have.