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7 Questions to Ask Your Child’s School About Cybersecurity Protocols

7 Questions to Ask Your Child’s School About Cybersecurity Protocols

7 Questions to Ask Your Child’s School About Cybersecurity ProtocolsJust a few weeks into the new school year and, already, reports of malicious cyberattacks in schools have hit the headlines. While you’ve made digital security strides in your home, what concerns if any should you have about your child’s data being compromised at school?

There’s a long and short answer to that question. The short answer is don’t lose sleep (it’s out of your control) but get clarity and peace of mind by asking your school officials the right questions. 

The long answer is that cybercriminals have schools in their digital crosshairs. According to a recent report in The Hill, school districts are becoming top targets of malicious attacks, and government entities are scrambling to fight back. These attacks are costing school districts (taxpayers) serious dollars and costing kids (and parents) their privacy.


Prime Targets

According to one report, a U.S. school district becomes the victim of cyberattack as often as every three days. The reason for this is that cybercriminals want clean data to exploit for dozens of nefarious purposes. The best place to harvest pure data is schools where social security numbers are usually unblemished and go unchecked for years. At the same time, student data can be collected and sold on the dark web. Data at risk include vaccination records, birthdates, addresses, phone numbers, and contacts used for identity theft. 

Top three cyberthreats

7 Questions to Ask Your Child’s School About Cybersecurity Protocols

The top three threats against schools are data breaches, phishing scams, and ransomware. Data breaches can happen through phishing scams and malware attacks that could include malicious email links or fake accounts posing as acquaintances. In a ransomware attack, a hacker locks down a school’s digital network and holds data for a ransom. 

Over the past month, hackers have hit K-12 schools in New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin, Virginia, Oklahoma, Connecticut, and Louisiana. Universities are also targeted.

In the schools impacted, criminals were able to find loopholes in their security protocols. A loophole can be an unprotected device, a printer, or a malicious email link opened by a new employee. It can even be a calculated scam like the Virginia school duped into paying a fraudulent vendor $600,000 for a football field. The cybercrime scenarios are endless. 

7 key questions to ask

  1. Does the school have a data security and privacy policy in place as well as cyberattack response plan?
  2. Does the school have a system to educate staff, parents, and students about potential risks and safety protocols? 
  3. Does the school have a data protection officer on staff responsible for implementing security and privacy policies?
  4. Does the school have reputable third-party vendors to ensure the proper technology is in place to secure staff and student data?
  5. Are data security and student privacy a fundamental part of onboarding new school employees?
  6. Does the school create backups of valuable information and store them separately from the central server to protect against ransomware attacks?
  7. Does the school have any new technology initiatives planned? If so, how will it address student data protection?

The majority of schools are far from negligent. Leaders know the risks, and many have put recognized cybersecurity frameworks in place. Also, schools have the pressing challenge of 1) providing a technology-driven education to students while at the same time, 2) protecting student/staff privacy and 3) finding funds to address the escalating risk.

Families can add a layer of protection to a child’s data while at school by making sure devices are protected in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) setting. Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility. While schools work hard to implement safeguards, be sure you are taking responsibility in your digital life and equipping your kids to do the same. 

 

The post 7 Questions to Ask Your Child’s School About Cybersecurity Protocols appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

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School of Cyberthreats: 3 Attacks Impacting Today’s Schools

School of Cyberthreats: 3 Attacks Impacting Today’s Schools

Educational institutions are data-rich gold mines. From student and employee records to sensitive financial information, schools contain a plethora of data that can be obtained by cybercriminals rather easily due to lack of security protocols. This fact has cybercriminals pivoting their strategies, leading to a recent uptick in attacks on the education sector in the United States and around the world. In fact, there are three main threats impacting schools — data breaches, phishing, and ransomware. Let’s take a look at each of these threats, how cybercriminals have executed them, and the precautions students can take in the future.

School of Cyberthreats: 3 Attacks Impacting Today’s Schools

Data Breaches

Nearly half of the cyberattacks that impacted schools in 2018 were data breaches, which occur when an unauthorized, third-party gains access to a school’s network. From there, cybercriminals gain access to a host of private information on employees and students, including names, dates of birth, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and Social Security numbers. After an attack of this nature occurs, educational institutions reassess their current cybersecurity strategy. This usually entails revisiting privacy settings and reviewing all security protocols. 

Phishing

Even the savviest email user can fall for a phishing scheme. These types of schemes usually entail tricking teachers or students out of private information or money. When cybercriminals send emails with fraudulent links, unsuspecting users click on that link because the web address is usually only off by one or two letters. Once the scammer has been given access through the malicious link, they get to work obtaining private information contained on the device. Using this data, they can enact further schemes. There have even been cases of cybercriminals impersonating deans or teachers asking for gift cards, which is a type of spear-phishing where scammers take the information they have obtained about a victim and use it to their advantage. The good news? Users can prevent against these sneaky attacks by staying vigilant and applying security best practices.

Ransomware

When ransomware hits, schools don’t really have a lot of options. If they have data backups in place, then they don’t have to pay the ransom, otherwise educational institutions have no choice but to completely shut down. Considering how much technology has been integrated into classrooms, this isn’t surprising. A ransomware attack usually occurs when a school district’s system is infiltrated by a virus intending to bring operations to a halt. Cybercriminals hold systems hostage for a certain amount of money or ransom until the district decides to pay. The data that is held can range from a variety of things – lesson plans, financial information, personal employee and student records. There aren’t many ways for schools to bypass these types of attacks unless they are prepared beforehand. One way to be prepared is to back up files in multiple places, such as an external hard drive or cloud.

With the uptick in overall cyberthreats against schools, more and more educational institutions need to put protocols into place to avoid the multitude of ever-growing threats. However, students can do their part in prioritizing cybersecurity by following these tips to ensure personal data is secure:

  1. Watch what you are clicking. Phishing schemes are becoming craftier. A too good to be true study guide or deal on a textbook might end in a compromised system. It is always best to check directly with the source of the email or link before handing over money or data.
  2. Make sure you recognize the sender. When responding to a message, first check to see if you recognize the sender’s name and email address. If it looks strange, ignore the message. If you are unsure, check with the sender in person.
  3. Never reuse passwords. Many users reuse the same passwords or slight variations of it, across all of their accounts. That means if a hacker uncovers one password, all other accounts are put at risk. So, it is crucial to use different passcodes to ensure hackers cannot obtain access to all of your accounts.
  4. Stay on a secure network. If you connect to public Wi-Fi, be sure the network is secure. If it is not, consider using a virtual private network (VPN).
  5. Install security software on all devices. Security doesn’t begin or end with personal computers. All devices need to be protected with comprehensive security software, including mobile devices and tablets.
  6. Make sure all device software is up-to-date. This is one of the easiest and best ways to secure devices against threats, as developers are constantly releasing patches for vulnerabilities and flaws.

And as always, if you are interested in learning more about IoT and mobile security trends and information, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, and ‘Like” us on Facebook.

The post School of Cyberthreats: 3 Attacks Impacting Today’s Schools appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

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