The education industry saw a 44% rise in cyber attacks compared to 2021, with an average of 2297 attacks targeting organizations each week. With the increased adoption of technology in the education sector, the industry is susceptible to cyber threats. Prioritizing cybersecurity and ensuring compliance with cybersecurity standards thus becomes critical for the education sector in 2023.
The education sector is facing a growing number of cyber threats from both outside organizations and even students themselves. A large number of unprotected endpoints and networks used by organization members, along with outdated internal systems, create favorable conditions for a wide range of cyber attacks.
Why is Cybersecurity Compliance Important in Education?
Cybersecurity compliance is becoming increasingly important for the following reasons.
1. Protecting sensitive information
Educational institutions store a large amount of sensitive information, including student and staff records, financial information, and research data. This information must be protected from unauthorized access, theft, and damage to maintain the privacy and security of individuals. Cybersecurity compliance helps to ensure that proper security measures are in place to protect this sensitive information.
2. Maintaining the reputation of the institution
A cyber attack on an educational institution can have a significant impact on its reputation. In the event of a breach, the institution may be viewed as irresponsible and untrustworthy, which can lead to a loss of students and funding. Cybersecurity compliance helps to maintain the reputation of the institution by demonstrating a commitment to protecting sensitive information and maintaining the trust of students, staff, and stakeholders.
3. Compliance with regulations
Education institutions are subject to various regulations, including the likes of Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in the US, which sets standards for the protection of student records. Cybersecurity compliance helps organizations to meet these regulations and avoid potential fines and legal action.
What is the impact of data breaches in the education sector?
The primary motivation behind these attacks is obtaining sensitive information, including private data records, contact information, intellectual property, and research findings.
Here are some examples of data breaches that have impacted the education industry:
- Exploited vulnerability of Dell hardware: Malware planted by attackers allowed them to access the networks of schools in Massachusetts and California. They found backdoors through desktop computers and servers, putting non-cloud services and systems offline.
- 36,000 credentials for sale on the black market: The FBI issued an alert about US-based colleges and universities' users, networks, and VPN credentials being sold on Russian cybercriminal forums. The credentials were likely acquired through phishing and ransomware and were priced from a few to thousands of dollars.
- Shut down of Lincoln College in Illinois: A threat actor seized IoT devices, hiring and admissions applications systems, and data of a 630-student school for a ransom of under $100,000. The internal network and systems were down for 1.5 months, leading to the closure of Lincoln College after 157 years of operation.
- Massive data breach in connection with a common vendor: Chicago Public Schools recently suffered a data breach of over 56,000 employees and 50,000 students, shortly after the NY State Education Department informed of a data breach that impacted 565 schools and over 1 million former and present students.
- Leaked patient health records of Washington University School of Medicine: The threat actor gained unauthorized access to employee email accounts for almost a month, but the extent of the data exposure is unclear.
What should you know in 2023?
Below are some important considerations for adopting cybersecurity and ensuring compliance in 2023.
Increased focus on remote learning security
With the COVID-19 pandemic, remote learning has become a popular alternative to traditional in-person classes. In 2023, there will be an increased focus on ensuring the security of remote learning systems and platforms. Educational institutions must ensure that their remote learning systems are secure and that all data transmitted is protected from cyber threats.
Importance of employee training
In 2023, organizations must also focus on employee training and awareness. Employees must be trained on the latest security threats and best practices for protecting sensitive information. This includes training on password management, phishing scams, and the safe handling of sensitive information.
Keeping up with emerging threats
Cyber threats are constantly evolving, and organizations must stay vigilant and up-to-date on the latest security threats. In 2023, educational institutions must invest in the latest security technologies and tools to stay ahead of emerging threats and protect their systems and data.
Common focus of attacks
The most common focus of these attacks is disrupting system operations, which results in downtime or denied access to internal resources. Another major aspect of these attacks is data theft, whether it's research findings or student personal information. Threat actors use various methods to cause harm to minors' safety, compromise intellectual property, or use stolen information for ransom.
Types of attacks
The education sector is facing a range of cyber threats, including DDoS attacks, ransomware, and phishing attacks. Phishing attacks often result in stolen funds for student fees, while other attacks pose a threat to minors' safety or compromise intellectual property.
Rising number of threats
The education sector is under great stress due to the sharp increase in cyber threats. One reason is the sudden transition of connections to students' and teachers' unprotected networks, which has massively increased security risks. Additionally, the lack of cyber preparedness is another major factor contributing to the rising number of threats. On average, educational institutions have only 5.4 security controls per device, while a standard corporate device has 11.7 security apps.
Cybersecurity compliance is crucial for the education industry in 2023. By protecting sensitive information, maintaining the reputation of the institution, and complying with regulations, organizations can ensure that their systems and data are secure. With an increased focus on remote learning security, employee training, and staying ahead of emerging threats, educational institutions can ensure that they are prepared for the challenges of the digital age.
It is easiest for educational institutions to depend on MSPs to provide them with comprehensive cybersecurity solutions and take care of compliance. For MSPs, deploying cybersecurity compliance programs across multiple educational institutions becomes more convenient and efficient with the 6clicks platform.
With the multi-entity Hub & Spoke architecture, MSPs can effectively manage cybersecurity compliance for multiple clients. The platform simplifies compliance by making available all tools an organization needs for compliance – from content to reporting.
Check out how MSPs can benefit from using the 6clicks by taking a tour of the platform.