Cybersecurity should be a top priority for schools, especially with remote learning being part of the norm in so many schools and classrooms these days. Being online more also means being susceptible to more cyberattacks. But with some best practices in place, students, teachers, and schools can be kept as safe and secure as possible. Here are some simple steps to help your school get started.
Perform a security audit
Start by doing a security audit of your school's systems. It's best to hire an independent security firm or analyst to help. You can start pinpointing where any problems may be by running a vulnerability scan to identify for weaknesses and flaws in systems and software.
Patch & upgrade software often
Applying software updates and the latest security patches to your school's computers and notebooks is essential to protect against any vulnerabilities. Cyber attackers are always finding new ways to breakthrough, so it's important to update often and especially when you get the notification that a new update has become available.
Protect your accounts with strong passwords
Passwords are your first line of defense against data breaches and cyber criminals. They act as your key to your online castle. Passwords should be:
- Long - at least 12 characters
- Complex – use a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters.
- Unique - use a different password for each account.
If it seems like these passwords will be too hard to remember with all the online accounts you access these days, consider using a password manager to help.
Prove your identity using multi-factor authentication
You've probably started experiencing multi-factor authentication (MFA) - also known as two-factor verification - a lot more recently. That's because it's one of the best ways to secure your accounts. Basically, MFA requires anyone logging in to prove their identity in multiple ways, such as a fingerprint, facial ID or responding to a text message or email. This makes it harder for hackers to access your online accounts, even if they manage to figure out your password.
Proactively report phishing attempts
Phishing is when criminals use fake emails, social posts, or direct messages to lure you to click on a bad link or download a malicious attachment. If you click on it, you could be handing over your personal information to a cybercriminal or installing malware onto your device. But you don’t have to take the bait! If you suspect a phishing attempt, then you should report it right away to your IT manager, security officer or the following:
- Report a phish on Outlook.
- Report a phish on Gmail.
- Report a phish on Mac Mail.
You can also report a phishing attempt to CISA here.
Provide awareness & training
Security is not just an IT problem – it should be a part of everyone’s job, but they need to be equipped with how to protect their information and devices.
A recent study by Morning Consult that was sponsored by IBM Security surveyed 1,000 U.S. educators and administrators. Nearly 60% of educators and administrators say they haven’t been given cybersecurity training for remote learning, despite nearly 80% of educators reporting they’re using online learning.
Conversations around cybersecurity must happen and should include staff, administrators, teachers, parents, and students. Providing education and simple tips on digital citizenship and how to recognize suspicious activity, links or attachments can help increase awareness so people make smart decisions to protect themselves, but also have the knowledge to help prevent a potential cyberattack before it happens.
Prepare a plan
If a cyberattack or security breach does occur at your school, the best thing you can do is have a plan in place that backups your data, fixes the issue, and notifies teachers, students, and parents of steps they need to take to protect their information. Both your internal school community and the external community should know when a breach occurs, and your school should know how to appropriately respond about the issue.
When it comes to cybersecurity, you most often hear about data breaches and hackers, but there are simple things we all can do - both in our classrooms and at home - to protect our personal data and stay safe online.
Cybersecurity is just one topic to consider before going digital at your school. To learn more, contact us for a free demo!
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