Top Cybersecurity Threats to the Education Sector

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Ransomware Attacks Against K-12 & Secondary Education are Surging

Ransomware attacks against K-12 education as well as colleges and universities are surging in 2022. In fact, 56% of early education organizations and 64% of secondary education organizations were hit with ransomware attacks in the last year, according to a recent report by Sophos.

School systems, whether early education or secondary education, are responsible for enormous amounts of personal and confidential data – and in most cases, remain painfully underfunded in regard to Information Technology and security, making them prime targets for cybercriminals. Organizations in the education sector take twice as long to recover from a cyberattack when compared to other industries. These combined criteria have created the perfect cybersecurity storm for K-12 as well as colleges and universities, and there is no end in sight.

Cybersecurity Risks to K-12 Education

In recent years, K-12 education has become increasingly reliant on the use of technology in and out of the classroom. The evolving dependence on devices, the lack of funding for IT and cyber security along with little to no faculty, staff or student security training have made K-12 organizations highly vulnerable targets for Ransomware attacks.

Depending upon the district and grade level, devices such as Chromebooks, tablets and other mobile devices may be assigned to students for routine use at home. The pandemic and remote learning significantly increased this practice among schools. K-12 organizations, both public and private, were forced to adapt more quickly than they were prepared for, resulting in cybersecurity technology and awareness becoming an afterthought in most cases. Even today, very few districts have measures in place to monitor the vast amount of endpoints they manage, leaving their networks increasingly open to attack. And without adequate cybersecurity protocols in place, it is not a matter of if, but when an unfortunate cyber event will happen.

Cybersecurity Risks to colleges & universities

The cybersecurity risks plaguing colleges & universities are similar in ways to that of primary education institutions. As online degree programs have increased in popularity, so has the amount of sensitive data being managed within cloud networks and applications from students, faculty and staff alike. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on many secondary education organizations. Dwindling enrollment numbers along with the required investments in technology for remote learning, health and safety measures during the pandemic have created a significant financial burden. This has left many universities struggling to fund vital cybersecurity efforts that could prevent cyberattacks such as ransomware.

A recent ransomware attack caused the closing of a long-established private institution. Lincoln College, founded in 1865 in Illinois, experienced a ransomware attack that targeted the system that managed the admissions, recruitment and retention of students and rendered it permanently unusable. This attack, coupled with the continued financial burden as a result of the pandemic caused Lincoln College to permanently close its doors this past May.

The Biggest Threat to the Education Industry is Inaction

The most common challenge among education organizations, whether they are K-12 or secondary education, is budgetary limitations. IT departments across all industries remain widely underfunded, leaving IT leaders a painful lack of resources to dedicate to security technology and talent. This coupled with the alarming cybersecurity skills gap has created an immense challenge among organizations to prioritize proactive cybersecurity measures like threat detection, endpoint protection and end-user behavior monitoring as well as internal faculty and staff cybersecurity training in order to minimize vulnerabilities and high-risk behavior.

In today’s current threat climate, a reactive-only approach is simply irresponsible. While IT and cybersecurity funding and department budget limitations are a real and present challenge, no education organization can afford the cost of an attack. And the initial financial impact of the ransom is not the only risk exposure due to a lack of preparedness. The downtime, remediation cost – which has now surpassed an average of $1.4 million for the education sector, and potential ongoing lawsuits as a result of lost or stolen data can overwhelm and disrupt an organization very quickly. It is imperative that education organizations prioritize proactive cybersecurity measures to ensure they are protecting their entire infrastructure.

Securus360 Solves Cybersecurity for the Education Sector

In the next year, more K-12 organizations, colleges and universities without adequate cybersecurity protection and protocols will fall victim to ransomware attacks, this is for certain. With expansive networks and endpoints to manage, the organizations that do not have adequate cybersecurity measures in place will fail to identify threats until it is far too late. Your organization does not have to be one of them. Securus360 provides the solution!

Managed eXtended Detection & Response (MXDR) from Securus360 is a next-generation cybersecurity solution for K-12 organizations as well as colleges and universities that provides 24/7/365 threat visibility across the organization’s entire infrastructure – including users, servers, endpoints, and cloud networks as well as end-user behavior. Securus360 utilizes a cloud-native approach that combines Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to proactively hunt, detect and neutralize advanced threats such as ransomware attacks and other malware before they can impact an organization. This industry-leading approach augments and provides comprehensive cybersecurity support to IT departments, allowing them to manage the needs of their organization more efficiently at lower costs.

Securus360 offers MXDR demonstrations that include an evaluation of your organization’s current cybersecurity posture, an overview of MXDR, an outline of the integration within your existing network as well as outcomes of various breach types and attempts that Securus360 actively prevents. Contact Securus360 to get started!

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