IT staff are crucial to safeguarding a school's assets, but all employees can and should be accountable for cybersecurity.

How to make secure K-12 digital transformation a reality

IT staff are crucial to safeguarding a school's assets, but all employees can and should be accountable for cybersecurity

Key points:

  • More students and educators are connecting personal devices to school networks
  • This makes network security–an already underfunded area–even more critical

The pandemic was a massive shift for school districts across the country, and even as we move out of it, we’re still feeling the impact. On the technical side, it prompted quick transformation to enable virtual schooling–and these changes were made as districts were already challenged by legacy technology, reduced budgets and understaffing. Existing problems were exacerbated.

In parallel, we’ve seen a rise in ransomware and other cyberattacks in the education sector. What’s needed is a digital transformation strategy that also prioritizes security.

A challenging landscape

There’s nothing mysterious or shocking about the rise in cyberattacks against the education sector. Today’s 21-century education requires up-to-date technology, but that’s a bigger risk for school IT teams. For instance, educational institutions are witnessing growth in the number of students, professors, and administrators who link personal devices to the network. A school district’s attack surface is expanded by this increased connection, making it more vulnerable to new threats.

And most schools are not equipped to deal with these threats; the Nationwide Cybersecurity Review (NCSR) risk-based assessment rates the cyber maturity score of K-12 schools at 3.55 out of 7. In fact, according to 29 percent of those responding to the K-12 Report, a cyber incident occurred in their district last year. Malware and ransomware were two of the most prevalent occurrences. According to the report, ransomware attacks pose the greatest cybersecurity risk to K-12 schools and districts in terms of overall cost and downtime.

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