Education’s Biggest Cyber Security Threats of 2016

Going to school is one of those portals virtually everyone in the industrialized world will pass through. In the age of the internet and proliferation of personal computer technology, this means billion digital trails throughout millions of educational systems – and counting. In short, it adds up to vast amounts of data and sensitive information; just the sort of thing that appeals to cyber criminals.

With the latter half of this decade well underway, the major cyber security threats facing educators and students are as follows:

Data Breach

The classic data breach designed to seize digital files in bulk remains the single greatest threat to academic cyber security. The importance of business grade network security in school systems has never been greater. Virtually everything needed to know about a person is likely to be found within the files of a school district – age, address, social security number, contact information, relatives, et cetera. It’s critical for school systems to opt for network protection enabling a continuous monitoring of web traffic, as this is the primary avenue of attack.

Audio/Video Breach

Cameras have long been installed in school hallways and perimeters to improve security. Nowadays cameras are everywhere – on smartphones first and foremost. The ones on walls and ceilings for surveillance are also tethered to the web via remote streaming and cloud storage. In short, these tools used for safety and convenience can be turned around and used against us via backdoor attacks online. School campuses, like other places where hundreds of people congregate daily, are optimal targets for such malicious activity, especially audio collection. Not to mention, kids are more likely to download the sorts of apps and programs likely to harbor these kinds of malware.

Discount Gadgetry

Classroom budgets in most cases are severely limited if not downright nonexistent. In an age where technology is tied with education, this means educators are turning to discount gadgets and devices when making purchases for student use. Though well intentioned, this can create a hole in school network security. Far too often these online “bargains” for flash drives, laptops, and tablets are because the seemingly brand name products are indeed counterfeit. Increasingly, these knock off items are being pre-infested with bugs designed to track users and mine for data.

IoT Breach

The Age of the internet is swiftly turning into the Age of the internet of things – or IoT for short. In the classroom of tomorrow (closer to today than you think), everything from chairs to windows may be directly connected to networks for data analysis purposes. Simply put, the amount of data revealing human patterns will increase, allowing for greater convenience but equally creating a more tempting target for online criminals to pursue. Schools will, of course, be high on the list of opportune places for cyber criminals to focus their attention. Network protection will need to integrate the internet of things into the game plan.

The U.S. Department of Education is also there to help. The DOE guidelines for safeguarding student privacy offer extensive advice and recommendations for preventing the aforementioned security breaches and cyber attacks from happening on school systems across the country.

Every year, millions of students pass from one grade to the next in the pursuit of education. This generates countless digital files and records containing sensitive information about students and staff. Care must be taken to not only prevent the traditional forms of cyber attacks but prepare for the ways in which these attacks will be performed in the near future.

Consideration was received for the editing and publishing of this article

About the Author: Jenna B.

Jenna is a freelance writer who got into blogging in college and copywriting upon graduation. Jenna has usually written about topics that mean a lot to her such as health and medicine when applied to family and loved ones. Jenna is an avid runner as long as it’s not a marathon distance jog! She’s on twitter (she still hasn’t fallen in love with and doesn’t use often) @JennaFromDaBlog!

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