Schools are the second-most targeted industry for ransomware attacks, with more than 49 incidents already this year, according to a new report from security technology company Absolute evaluating K-12 digital trends.
There have been more than 700 cybersecurity incidents in schools since 2016; meanwhile, funding for education technology has increased by 62% since that time and shown no signs of slowing down.
While making digital access more equitable, the growth has created a “management nightmare.” The report states, “Within a few years, K-12 [information technology] leaders have gone from managing a couple of operating systems, a handful of apps, and a few hundred devices to managing hundreds of versions of operating systems, apps, and extensions; and thousands of devices.”
With the growth of tech in classrooms, schools have become easy, lucrative targets. But many of the incidents might be preventable if administrators took better precautions, including educating students and staff and investing in strong IT personnel.
Some of the biggest threats are actually tech-savvy students. Absolute researchers found 42% of schools have students who are circumventing security, and not always maliciously, necessitating education on how they may be putting themselves at risk online — on school-issued devices and personal ones.
National Cyber Security Alliance Executive Director Kelvin Coleman recently told Education Dive that knowing how to stay secure online is as necessary as knowing how to tie your shoe or make a phone call.
“We need to be looking at cybersecurity like how people once looked at home [economics],” Coleman said. “It’s one of these essential skills that you need to get through today’s life.”
Taking more precautions doesn’t necessarily mean spending more on security, since the more tools you use, the higher the probability of failure, the Absolute report states. Instead, it’s better to ask, “Are the controls we already have in place functioning at all times?”
Getting the basics in working order will allow districts to focus more attention and money toward enhancing and expanding digital equity initiatives.