As the year ends, school principals have many tasks to manage, from concluding the academic quarter on a solid note to preparing for a successful year ahead. One critical aspect that is often overlooked in the planning process is cybersecurity. Cybersecurity isn't just a matter for IT departments; it's a fundamental concern for your school. Your ability to safeguard sensitive data, including student and staff information, is pivotal.

Knowing cybersecurity fundamentals is essential for developing a comprehensive plan for the upcoming school year. The prevalence of cyber threats has become so routine that it's easy to underestimate the consequences of data breaches, leaving your educational institution vulnerable to attacks. Here are ten critical takeaways about cybersecurity that school principals should bear in mind to ensure the security of their schools:

  1. Every school is a potential target.
    Refrain from assuming your school is too small to be a target for cyberattacks. Hackers often target educational institutions with valuable data, and no school is immune to the risk.Takeaway: Prioritize cybersecurity and consult with experts to determine your school's specific needs.
  2. Employee Actions Matter:
    Human error is the leading cause of cybersecurity incidents. Educate your staff about the risks associated with cyber threats, such as clicking on malicious links or downloading suspicious attachments.Takeaway: Allocate resources for cybersecurity training for your school's staff.
  3. Regularly Update Software:
    Keep your school's software up to date, including web browsers. Software updates often address vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. Neglecting updates creates openings for cyberattacks.Takeaway: Ensure your IT team automatically runs updates and manually updates software when prompted.
  4. Backup Your School Data:
    Disasters happen, whether natural, like a hurricane or heavy rains flooding your office or a cybercriminal locking down your network and ransoming you to return it. Having a backup will allow you to reduce downtime and further damage to your school.Takeaway: Maintain an off-site data backup and test it regularly to ensure its effectiveness.
  5. Use a VPN for remote work.
    When working outside the school premises, connecting to public Wi-Fi can put you at risk. Hackers can break into unsecured Wi-Fi or set up fake ones, hoping you will connect to them. Using a virtual private network (VPN) is crucial to protecting your network from cyber threats.Takeaway: Encourage staff to use a VPN when working remotely or on public networks
  6. The High Cost of Data Breaches:
    Data breaches can be financially devastating, and the cost can range from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. Such incidents can jeopardize your school's sustainability.Takeaway: Invest in cybersecurity measures to safeguard your school's future.
  7. Cyber Insurance Caveats:
    If you're hacked, cyber insurance doesn't automatically cover you. Insurance agents will check to make sure you've done everything in your power to prevent the attack. If you haven't, your claim can be denied. Ensure you meet all the requirements outlined in your policy to avoid claim denial.Takeaway: Carefully review the terms and conditions of your cyber insurance policy and comply with all stipulations.
  8. Compliance vs. Security:
    Being compliant means you are fulfilling all the government's requirements. This does not mean you are 100% secure; it means you have implemented the basics. Consult with cybersecurity experts who understand the unique needs of educational institutions to establish robust security systems.

     Go beyond compliance to ensure your school has comprehensive security measures.
  9. Basic Defenses Are Not Enough: 

    Antivirus and firewalls are essential, but more is needed to protect your school from advanced cyber threats. These are helpful, but you need more to keep you secure. Hackers are routinely finding ways to break through, so you're at risk if you're not implementing other security measures. Consult Cybersecurity professionals to identify additional safeguards.Takeaway: Seek guidance from cybersecurity experts to strengthen your school's security posture.

  10. Accountability in the Case of a Breach: 

    When it comes to data breaches, whether you're at fault or not, you'll be the one to catch the blame from parents, staff, the media, and more, and it won't be pleasant.Takeaway: Take a proactive approach to cybersecurity to mitigate potential repercussions.

Take your security seriously in 2024. We offer a FREE, no-obligation Security Assessment. Even if you already have a cyber security company you work with, it can't hurt to have a second expert opinion to assess if and where you're vulnerable to an attack.

We have limited spots available and expect to fill up before the holiday break, so if you're interested, click here to book your assessment with our team now.