Why Cyber Criminals are Attacking School Districts
As we’ve discussed in previous articles, the pandemic has led to a surge in cyber criminals attacking over the past few months. Unfortunately now that school is back in session, the education system is feeling the brunt of it. This is an incredibly pressing matter, as students and faculty are subject to losing information like social security numbers, date of birth, phone numbers, and private health information.
So why do cyber criminals target schools in the first place?
Hackers tend to look for systems that are weakly guarded. School districts typically have weak systems due to limited resources for IT and cybersecurity, making it easier for a hacker to gain access. In most cases, the hack begins with a faculty member of student opening a phishing or ransomware attack.
In a phishing hack, an employee would receive an email that contains a malware link. These usually look like normal links to the naked eye, but are encrypted with code. This is why these attacks are so common; because it’s hard to tell just by looking at it. Once you’ve clicked on the link, the hacker has the go ahead to attack the school district’s network and steal data.
In a ransomware attack, a hacker would deploy some kind of ransomware to lock up the school’s data until the district pays the price. Another ransomware technique involves impersonation, where a hacker impersonates a district employee to obtain credentials. School systems are built open openness — like sharing resources through community portals, etc. This makes the school system more vulnerable and susceptible to these types of attacks.
What can schools do to protect themselves?
The need for extra cyber security measures often goes overlooked due to lack of financial resources or man power. While security can get expensive, there are ways in which a school district can take preventative measures without breaking the bank.
- Antivirus software. It’s essential that school districts invest in strong antivirus software to protect and fight off viruses and malware that have infected their system.
- DNS quality. A domain name system is what connects domain names with their IP addresses. Updating a DNS consistently helps close any gaps in exploitation that can lead to the loss of data like usernames, passwords, etc.
- Backup data. Backing up data to the cloud is a safe way to prevent data loss. It’ll allow you to revert to a safe point before damage is done. Because without backing up data, it could be lost forever upon a breach.
- Whitelisting. This means operating with a set of approved apps and systems, and outside applications are limited from running. This will keep everything standard.
- Staff training. Cyber security training for school district employees is critical. They should at least know the basics of how to spot attacks, create safe passwords, etc. This training can get extensive; but it’s about empowering employees to spot attacks while they’re happening, and teach safety precautions to students. Training should be done regularly (at least every year), not just during employee onboarding.
Whether your organization needs to keep IT service and support costs predictable, avoid unexpected problems, communicate more effectively or make a plan for business continuity, Thinline Technologies has a solution for you. We have professionals who are highly trained in IT and cyber criminals, and want to do everything we can to help your business succeed! Give us a call at (410) 453-9300 or visit our services page for more info.