Improving your school’s security resilience against cyber attacks
Schools are being targeted by cybercriminals
Government statistics show that cyber-attacks on schools are increasing. Schools are more likely to be a victim of cybercrime than a business.
How confident are you in your IT cyber security?
If the worst were to happen, how quickly would you be back up and running?
A high school in East Anglia was the victim of a cyber-attack in August. Over four weeks later, they were still having to operate as if it is 1983 not 2023: parents had no access to online payment records, the school had no access to Teams, email, printers and so on. A great illustration of what happens when it goes wrong and the challenges that can be faced when recovery is slow.
Cybersecurity must be high on the budget priority list as the risk far outweighs any investment needed to bring the systems and infrastructure up to date. Cybersecurity is a critical concern.
Why schools are at risk from cyber-attacks
Schools are being seen as an easy target for several reasons:
Education settings, whether nursery, primary, senior or higher education, hold a huge amount of personal data on both students and their staff:
- Full names
- Street addresses
- Email addresses
- Phone numbers
- Grades and aptitude information
- Credit card details
- Student loan information
- Passport information
- Next of kin
The list goes on. With most senior schools managing in-school payments through a thumbprint, communication being through email and Google forms, not only is there a wealth of information to obtain for the hackers, but it can also bring a school to its knees without access to the systems. A London school had to close for the first two weeks of September this year after being victim to a cyber-attack.
Whether due to funding, knowledge or a designated appropriate lead, education settings traditionally tend to be behind the curve in everything tech. IT Cyber security is no different.
Research by SWGfl and the University of Kent, in 2022 showed that 31% of schools did not have an IT security policy in place, and one in four nurseries/childminders had experienced a data breach in the past twelve months. This produced some scary stats!
We don’t need to point out just how old your tech and tech infrastructure is. You are the ones every day coping with a laptop taking half the lesson to whirl into life, and knowing that you can’t access the WIFI in certain classrooms. Whilst the end-user tech you are using is just about hobbling along, the challenge is that the cyber security systems sitting in the background are just as antiquated and can prove to be pretty much useless against today’s sophisticated attacks. Legacy hardware is often no longer supported by software developers meaning crucial updates are not possible to keep it secure, leaving both software and hardware more vulnerable.
If you are fortunate to work in a school with great investment in tech, that can bring different risks. High use of tech, including having laptops and other portable devices that are used in and out of school, and access online by third parties, can introduce viruses and be a way in for cyber criminals.
Lack of Expertise
Whilst Headteachers and the senior team need to be experts in most aspects of business nowadays, cyber security and IT don’t tend to be high on the list of CV skills. Smaller education centres can’t afford to employ a full-time IT specialist. At best, the role is tagged onto an “appropriate” person whether that is a member of the admin team or the teaching team. By default, it often falls to the Head Teacher. Trying to stay up to date with the latest developments in cyber security is impossible with the day-to-day demands of a busy school.
Working from Home and Using Personal Devices
Teachers and students can bring the risk into school with them if the policies and systems are not in place to protect everyone. Students may be asked to access data in class on their personal devices using the school WIFI. Homework may be brought into school on USB drives for printing or presenting.
Add in the home-schooling, and recent addition of the use of Teams, and suddenly the internal system is not so internal anymore, leaving it vulnerable to attack.
The solution? Speak to Agile Technical Solutions.
As a trusted outsourced IT company, we have been providing IT support for schools since 2010, working predominately throughout Essex and Suffolk, we continue to provide reliable, secure, cost-effective ICT Support and consultancy led services to both schools and academies.
We understand what matters most to schools; creating excellent and safe learning environments. To enable this, we believe that School ICT must be secure, responsive, and value for money. That’s where we excel, as the existing schools we partner with would happily tell you.
Whilst we understand budgetary constraints, prioritising the safety and security of your team, students and families has to be a priority. Investing in cyber security isn’t just about hardware and software. It can be having the right policies, training and people in place. It can be reviewing third-party IT security and undertaking a risk assessment. Most likely it is a combination of it all. What is important is to minimise the risk, and to make sure that should something happen, recovery is quick and efficient.
Strategic Advice – it may be that you need to review or introduce more robust policies such as a Working from Home Policy, IT Disaster Recovery Policy, or IT Cyber Security Policy. You may need to improve, or introduce training to your team, and repeat that training regularly. At Agile we understand the education environment and can review and advise on what is needed to improve your cybersecurity. After a comprehensive audit, to identify vulnerabilities and potential weaknesses, we can then propose the best way forward.
Improvements in software and hardware solutions – to make sure you have what you need to run your school and stay safe from hackers and cybercriminals. We will propose, install, and manage cost-effective ICT solutions to suit your needs.
Collaboration – we will work with your team to ensure that everyone is informed, and onboard and that our approach is in line with your school’s mission and values.
By providing these services and solutions, Agile Technical Solutions can play a crucial role in helping schools and academies bolster their cybersecurity resilience, protect sensitive information, and provide a safe digital learning environment for students and staff. With experience in providing IT support for schools, we understand your environment and priorities and are the ideal outsourced IT company to partner with.
Our friendly, personable and practical approach will make a complex issue easy to understand and manage.
Contact us today for a free no-obligation meeting to discuss how we could help your school improve your cybersecurity