Among the many challenges faced faced by the education sector like lack of funds, lack of staffing, cyber-attacks is becoming one of the top most challenges especially times of E-learning. There are more and more reports and news on the education industry being a target.
Educational institutes are entrusted with protecting students’ data, valuable information such as Academic research, question papers, course curriculum and so on, but a weak cyber security infrastructure can put them at risk.
This was made clearer earlier in the year with the attack on Punjab Univerisity.The faculty members and university administration received emails from an untrusted user from different locations; it appeared to be written by students who claimed they had access to online exam papers.
The univerisity had to postpone the exams. One of the reasons why hackers were able to get into university network easily was due to lack of technical knowledge and awareness about cyber threats.
This Phishing attack caused a lot of distruption, financial loss not to mention potential harm to students.
Here are some common reasons as to why cyber attacks are occurring in the education industry and how to avoid being the next victim.
The reasons for cyber-attacks may vary according to the size, venue or dignity of the institute. A public school may face different cyber compared to a government school. Hence, institutes need to evaluate the risks and figure out what data is vulnerable.
Why is the Education Sector a target?
Disruption: In many cases hacker’s motive is to affect the productivity by causing wide spread disruption to the education institutes network. Many times teacher or students carry out DDOS attacks simply to take a day off or delay examinations. This can happen only when the network is not protected.
Data theft: As education institutes hold student, staff, research data which are highly attractive to hackers for their financial gain. They either use it to sell to third party or use it as a tool to extort money.
Financial gain: Most of the private schools handle fees and other financial transaction online, making them the prime target for the cyber criminals for financial gain. Without proper protection or awareness, institutes leave a weak point open for the cyber criminals.
Espionage: As mentioned earlier, the education institute, education institutes hold a lot of valuable research from the field of science, medical to engineering. University/collages needs to protect this data from the cyber criminals as lot of time, money and energy is devoted behind the research. Hackers can easily get the documents/ research and use it for their own benefits.
Phishing, Ransomware are among the top cyber threats faced by educational institutes. Human error plays a critical role in helping these cyber-attacks to launch successfully. This can happen by staff or students who aren’t sufficiently trained to practice good cyber hygiene or accidentally compromise the network.
However education sector is also facing certain challenges to overcome cyber threats like:
Lack of resources: Education sector lack funds to invest in cyber security software or training the staff to defend the cyber threats.
BYOD culture: Usage of personal devices is common in the educational institute which presents difficulties in securing network especially when the IT staffs is not prepared with resources.
Lack of polices and procedure: Having password management, user access is difficult without appropriate policies and procedure which is one of the biggest challenge faced by education sector.
Despite the challenges in order to mitigate the risks, here are some tips the education sector use to avoid becoming the next cyber attack victim.
Cyber Security awareness training is essential. Ensure that all your staff and students have basic training. This can include handbooks, posters on how to defend against phishing attacks, cyberbullying, ransomware and more. Education can help reduce human errors and safeguard education data.
Protect what matters most:
Institutes need to focus on securing valuable information such as student data, research and other confidential ifnormation. Make it a business mission to safeguard this data.
Control user access:
By controlling user access processes for the user base, educational institutions can provide a better user experience and more easily identify unauthorised users.
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