It is undeniable–the education sector is prone to cyberattacks from malicious cybercriminals due to the amount of personal data available across user devices and organization networks. Just this past fall, the FBI, CISA and MS-ISAC issued an alert on Vice Society, whose actors have been known to disproportionately target the education sector with ransomware attacks.
While cybersecurity is certainly a top concern among this sector, tight budgets and resources mean that it is often not addressed until a major incident occurs. Given the imminent nature of today’s threat landscape, now more than ever, the urgency surrounding how best to protect and mitigate such attacks is at an all-time high.
With 40 percent of education devices found to have sensitive data stored, educational institutions must be adequately prepared to proactively prevent and respond to potential cyberattacks before a system breach occurs.
Understanding Complex IT Environments
Despite schools primarily returning to the classrooms, the ramifications from rapid acceleration of remote learning brought about during the pandemic are still being felt today–some of which present new challenges across the industry. With limited resources, visibility and budget, IT and security teams have been forced to address obstacles remotely. On the IT front, this can make it difficult to locate, track, manage and more importantly, reclaim missing devices–regardless of platform–from a single, cloud-based console.
Emerging concerns over the inability to measure student device usage and verify online activity remains a persistent challenge. This, in tandem with failing security controls such as encryption, outdated anti-malware, and vulnerable OS versions, has created a plethora of vulnerabilities and increased risks for cyberattacks.
Boosting Endpoint Visibility
Education organizations were found to have endpoints that were connecting in from nearly three locations per day (2.89). This may not be surprising given the digital nature of most schools today; however, paired with the analysis on sensitive data, it’s evident that corporate endpoints are at an increased risk of compromise.
Whether on or off a campus network, it’s crucial to activate a persistent connection to all your endpoints in order to provide unrivaled visibility and control. When institutions integrate these capabilities, they are then able to effectively geolocate, freeze, and wipe remote devices. From there, organizations can better plan, execute, collect, control, and monitor all remote devices.
Maintaining complete endpoint security requires a number of elements to be in place:
- For starters, the endpoint software should be embedded in the firmware of all devices, where it can’t be removed.
- Upon its activation, users should instantly have self-healing digital connection to all of their endpoints regardless of if they’re on or off an institution’s network.
- It is important to ensure inventory is an automatic process, where information can be fed from all endpoints. This should always remain efficiently up to date, without the need for any additional infrastructure.
- Beyond these capabilities, encryption and anti-malware monitoring should help to provide an even stronger barrier, restoring faulty safeguards remotely, without any human intervention needed.
Embracing Resilient Zero Trust
Given the growing threat of cyberattacks underscoring organizations’ abilities to depend on conventional perimeter-based defenses to protect critical systems, the Zero Trust approach has taken precedence. Under a Zero Trust approach, access to applications and data is denied by default. With the White House mandating federal compliance with zero-trust architecture by 2024, security and compliance are no longer mutually exclusive but rather, adopting a Zero-Trust security model is a necessity in order to remain compliant. Given the anticipated federal shift in policy across our nation in 2023, it is likely educational institutions will follow suit and implement their own Zero Trust requirements to ensure they remain resilient despite ongoing threats.
Solid network resilience is crucial to build on a platform of strong user verification as this is the most strategic means of preventing a breach of IT systems. More specifically, Resilient Zero Trust functions as a means of verifying users on a case-by-case basis, to assess, identify and alert of any suspicious behavior. When teams are notified of these threats in advance, they can freeze or shutdown potentially compromised entities to stop threat actors in their tracks. When this action is taken, this prevents hackers from moving laterally across a network, where they could cause even further damage to confidential records.
Ensuring Resilience for the Long-Haul
In today’s era of hybrid education, devices may travel with students and faculty across campus or even across the globe. Despite the benefits of staying connected, this new way of learning has created immediate concerns for information security; however, institutions shouldn’t remain fearful. So long as effective measures are in place, including reliable endpoints and resilient zero trust, there is no threat too big that can’t be contained.
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