3 Critical and Simple Ways to Secure Your SaaS Solutions


It’s impossible to get through the school day without using software. Technology is everywhere, and everyone in your K-12 district uses it: teachers, students, and administrators. Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions are the fuel that keeps every school district up and running, and the mission critical nature of your SaaS solutions mean they are also a hot spot for bad actors getting into your network.

What role do SaaS solutions play in your district?

SaaS solutions run our world. They’ve been around for a while now, and today they include most of the technology we use daily. We’re talking about Google Workspace (GWS), Microsoft 365 (M365), Amazon Web Services (AWS), Student Information Systems (SIS), and Learning Management Systems (LMS). They’re everywhere, and they’re a popular target for cybercriminals.

When it comes to keeping your K-12 school district’s network safe, it is essential that you secure and monitor your SaaS systems. Here are three things you can do today to ensure your SaaS solutions are secure:

#1: Enable Multi-Factor Authentication

Enabling Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), such as Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), is the fastest, easiest, and arguably most effective change you can make right now.

Cybercriminals and ransomware gangs frequently target publicly available email addresses to gain access to your network, rather than attack a network with “brute force”, a technical term in this context. In education, most staff, teacher, and student email addresses can be obtained relatively easily via publicly available contact databases. Once the hackers get a hold of these email addresses, they run phishing attacks to lure users to give up their login credentials.

Although your staff may complain at first about having to take more than one step to log into SaaS solutions, MFA adds a significant level of security as it will prevent hackers from being able to gain access to your network by logging in with stolen credentials.


#2: Segment & Segregate your networks

To further secure the network of your K-12 school district, you must segment your network. With segmented networks, it will be easier to monitor SaaS activity across all users in the district and to identify suspicious behavior. It will also allow you to contain a threat within the affected segment and prevent the attack from spreading to other segments of the network.

Network segmentation is not necessarily a quick process and requires some planning. But it is absolutely essential. Start by gathering data about your network, such as its size, the type and volume of data, and the different groups of users. You may want different levels of network access for students, teachers, and staff. Think through which users need access to what materials. Students may only require access to class materials and learning programs, while teachers require more access to deliver lessons and assess student work. Administrative staff will require even more access, including the sensitive personal information of students, parents, and other staff members. Each group requires a different level of access and protection.

Once you have segmented each group into different layers of access, this will greatly reduce the risk of lateral movement by an attacker between the different groups. If your network is compromised within one segment, it will be difficult for cybercriminals to gain access to a different segment of the network without overcoming additional security protocols. This will isolate a breach and minimize the scope of the attack.

In addition to preventing lateral movement, network segmentation also increases the visibility into network activity and makes monitoring and ultimately detecting suspicious activity much easier. Each segment will have its own set of expected activities, such as a certain number of logins on each SaaS application per day, or specific login locations. Anything that looks suspicious such as activity that doesn’t match established patterns, can be easily identified, investigated, and quickly handled.

#3: Work with a 3rd party vendor to monitor and gain visibility into your networks

Even with a segmented network, it can be difficult to see exactly what is going on inside your network. Day-to-day, you could have thousands upon thousands of logins from your students and staff. Manual monitoring would involve going through all of these lines of code to look for suspicious activity within your SaaS solutions. It’s an impossible task.

A 3rd party like Securus360 offers a 24/7/365 Security Operations Center (SOC), immediately alerting you to any suspicious activity. With Managed eXtended Detection and Response (MXDR), all devices in your network are monitored around the clock and true threats are contained immediately and automatically. You can set expected behavior rules for each segment of your network, then, going forward, any anomalous activity will immediately be brought to your attention. For example, if all of your students are located in the US and there is a login to your Google Workspace Email from overseas, that would immediately set off an alert, and would even be auto-contained if the user wants this action as part of their Alert Playbook. With thorough monitoring, you’ll have increased visibility into levels of activity that would be impossible to monitor on your own.

Technology runs our day-to-day lives, and that includes running your K-12 school district. We rely on technology to ensure our students are getting an education, but SaaS solutions can provide multiple ways for cybercriminals and Ransomware Gangs to breach your network and wreak havoc.

But there are precautions you can take to ensure your network stays secure. By enabling MFA, segmenting your network and working with a 3rd party to ensure 24/7/365 monitoring, you can keep the sensitive data of your students and staff safe for the long haul.

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