IT | Security

Cybersecurity: School’s Other Safety Concern

By: Art Robinson | 8/19/2020 | 3 min read

When deciding on how school instruction will be delivered this year, the health and safety of students, teachers and staff takes top priority. In addition to the obvious Coronavirus concerns, there’s yet another risk factor that weighs heavily on the minds of school officials everywhere, particularly with the prevalence of distance learning – cybersecurity. Again, the top priority is safety.

Cyber criminals are well-aware of the challenges our schools face today and they’ve so far been intent on exploiting the current times with a variety of hacks aimed at stealing sensitive data and wreaking havoc. Since 2016, there have been 907 cyber incidents in K-12. The K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center has a great map that breaks down the type of attack employed and geography. For more on the magnitude of this security challenge, Microsoft’s Global Threat Activity tracker reports 61% (over 4.8 million devices) of all malware attacks in the last 30 days targeted education.

Zoombombing, Phishing, Ransomware and more

In the Spring, when all students were sent home to learn remotely, we saw heavy reliance on video conferencing from a variety of vendors, most notably, Zoom. Soon after, many classrooms (and other groups) fell victim to Zoombombing. There are many examples – from a man in Florida who hacked into a classroom and exposed himself to a high school in Atlanta where two men interrupted a class with loads of vulgar language. Zoom quickly produced new security requirements to fend off such attacks and protect students.

Schools are also being targeted for the valuable, personal information they hold on students and staff via unpatched system vulnerabilities, phishing campaigns and denial of service attacks. They also target schools’ supply chains, as was seen most recently in the security incident at software provider, Blackbaud.

Ransomware has also been on the rise in education. In Texas, one school district chose to pay $50,000 in cryptocurrency after hackers locked up district data in a July ransomware attack. All data on the servers and a few hundred computers, including backups, was encrypted and therefore forced the delay of the school year by a week.

Confidently Secure Your Distance Learning with Absolute

K-12 faces enormous risk today. When it comes to cybersecurity, there unfortunately isn’t a vaccine coming to protect against criminal attacks but there are steps you can take to significantly boost your security posture. Absolute helps support safer, smarter and more secure learning environments by providing an undeletable tether to each and every device. No matter where your devices may be, you can see them and take immediate action on any incident or alert in an automated way via a single, cloud-based console.

If a device goes missing, IT can locate them, freeze them, or wipe them clean. Your connection to your fleet is also self-healing. In this way, you can ensure your critical applications such as SCCM, VPN, antivirus, encryption, and other security tools remain healthy and up to date.  

Absolute provides resilient visibility and control to more than half of the 50 largest school districts in the U.S and more than 1,700 institutions. For more on how Absolute supports cybersecurity in education, visit our Distance Learning Solutions Hub.