College graduation

Education will continue to be a target for cybercriminals. Here are data protection best practices that will help combat attacks. 

Cybersecurity continues to be a growing priority for the education sector, and educational institutions that lack a set of solid security and data protection best practices may fall prey to cybercriminals. EDUCASE has named information security as the top IT issue in education for the fourth consecutive year. Educational networks continue to be a prime target for cybercriminals because of the demographic of its educational users. In fact, education accounted for 13 percent of data breaches in the first half of 2017, with around 32 million comprised records, according to CSO Online.

As malicious hackers continue to breach education institutions for their valuable information, it has become increasingly important for school districts and universities to establish cybersecurity and data protection best practices. Processes should be in place to keep student and faculty information protected incase those practices fail.

Why Target Education? 

While education may not seem as lucrative as the financial industry or healthcare industry, there is a collection of information in the education industry that cybercriminals view as a gold mine. Education houses a large quantity of personal and financial information as well as confidential research. Because of the focused age, economic status and interests of its users, personal information can be a top target.

As cybersecurity continues to be a booming issue across the board, many universities and institutions conduct data breach research. This information, if breached, could share vulnerabilities, breaches and even techniques with the hackers it’s trying to prevent.

Creating Security Best Practices

Education is a major industry, so creating and implementing wide-spread compliance standards may be a lengthy process. In the meantime, here are a few best practices that specific districts and universities can abide by to ensure everyone’s data stays secure.

1. Practice secure password habits: Changing passwords every 90 days or whenever a breach is suspected is an easy way to keep critical data and login information safe from hackers. When creating a new password, it’s recommended to use a phrase to ensure it’s long and a mix of characters are used. Finally, never share passwords with anyone.

2. Know how to spot possible phishing emails: Unfortunately, phishers have become less obvious than the anonymous person claiming to need your social security number and bank routing information from years past. Ongoing training and education should be provided to users on current scams, how to identify them and a reminder to avoid opening or clicking on them.

The Anti-Phishing Working Groups (APWG) states that as a general rule, users should be careful about giving out personal information on the internet. Other helpful tips APWG provides includes being suspicious of any email or communication with urgent requests for personal financial information, avoid clicking on links and to use secure websites when submitting credit card information.

3. Redundancy and backups: According to the AASA, any data that is important in a school district or university should not only be backed up onsite, but also offsite. Critical systems that are maintaining student and facility information should allow education institutions to continue operating while repairs are made.

4. All school devices should have current security updates and patches: It’s important to ensure that all devices, whether that be a staff member’s laptop, library desktop computers, or classroom tablets, have the most recent security updates downloaded.

Compliance is LightEdge’s main priority across all our solutions and services that we offer. In fact, LightEdge goes as far as accepting compliance risk on behalf of our customers. If you would like to learn more about LightEdge’s cybersecurity and data protection offerings, get in touch with one of our compliance and security experts. Contact us here to get started!