With so many students in K12 districts and at colleges and universities learning on learn, an important question for education leaders to ask this year is: Is remote learning secure? With states embracing remote learning and hybrid learning environments here are some insights on how they can improve security and protect data and applications from bad actors.
School this year is looking a little different. Rather than packing backpacks with lunchboxes and hefty textbooks, students are grabbing the nearest device to connect to the classroom remotely and this is likely to continue into 2021. While virtual learning is necessary, it doesn’t come without its challenges – and we aren’t talking about forcing your child to do their math lesson at 8 a.m. while video games call their name. This year there’s a much more serious side that educators and parents need to be aware of, and that’s security.
Since 2016, there have been over 855 cyber incidents in U.S. schools, according to the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center. Last year alone, that number was over 345, three times the amount for 2018. As teachers, students, and parents connect to school servers with multiple, potentially unsecured devices, it’s paramount that schools have their cyber defenses ready.
For the State of Florida, cybersecurity is top of mind as nearly 40 percent of students continue remote learning, shared Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. With students both at home and on campus, states that are embracing hybrid learning, like Florida, have multiple vulnerabilities that potential cyber threats like phishing emails and targeted malware could take advantage of. According to the Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, the public sector had 6,843 incidents with 346 confirmed data disclosures last year, and 43 percent of those were from web applications – where virtual learning happens.
“The shift to remote learning opens the door for different points of attack that most school districts weren’t set up to support,” said Amy McLaughlin, cybersecurity project director for CoSN. “They’re vulnerable in different ways.” To fend off these bad actors, schools must look to trusted security partners that can protect data that is both on and off-prem. Federal funding programs are available to support these investments to protect devices that connect to school networks. This investment is minimal compared to the havoc a cyberattack can reign on networks and devices.
The CARES Act is one program helping to support schools during these uncertain times. “The CARES Act funds the purchase of new technologies so students can work remotely,” said Marc Doniger, VP of SLED with BlackBerry. “These devices open up an array of vulnerabilities for schools and should be protected with antivirus software, but more importantly, the networks these devices connect to should be secured to prevent attack damage.”
“As schools continue virtual learning this year, it’s vital that they have the solutions to protect the devices, data, and networks that are continuing to make learning possible,” said Doniger.
Worried you may have a current compromise in your environment? Request an immediate emergency incident response and containment engagement.