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Top 4 Cybersecurity Threats Facing K-12 Schools in 2023

Top 4 Cybersecurity Threats Facing K-12 Schools in 2023

K-12 schools nationwide rely heavily on technology and the internet for learning, communication, and daily operations. While technology opens many doors, it also carries with it a multitude of potential threats. Be aware of the top cybersecurity threats facing schools today and what you can do to protect your school from them.

#1 – Phishing Scams

Phishing scams are deceitful messages, often emails, that attempt to steal sensitive information such as login credentials or transmit malware. In recent years, phishing attacks are becoming more and more complex and challenging to recognize. Based on research from Security Boulevard, “from 2016 through 2020, the median amount of money stolen from schools via phishing campaigns is $2 million,” with a “new record in 2020, with $9.8 million being stolen from a single school” Sophisticated phishers do their due diligence to target key financial decision-makers in a school and make their emails look like they are coming from a reputable source. It’s important to be alert for phishing attacks in 2023, especially when changing routing information and sharing access to student data.

#2 – Ransomware

Ransomware is software that blocks access to a computer system until a sum is paid to retrieve that access. Hackers and ransomware gangs are increasingly targeting K-12 schools. According to research by Allan Liska, an intelligence analyst at Recorded Future, “131 school systems across the world were attacked in 2020, 162 in 2021, and 177 in this past year.” This trend was primarily catalyzed by the move to remote learning in 2020, which offered a broader attack surface and the personal information of thousands of students, teachers, and staff. Ransomware attacks can come through phishing emails, Google Cloud attacks, or hosting sites like SharePoint. Not all cyber insurance policies are equipped to handle the cost of this scale of breach. To protect your school from this kind of an attack, it’s critical not only that you have cyber insurance but that your coverage can handle the cost of a ransomware attack.

#3 – Cyber Bullying

Some threats to students’ safety and well-being don’t come from hackers or phishers but from their peers on the inside. Cyberbullying remains an inappropriate and harmful distraction for many students, and “according to the Cyberbullying Research Center, approximately 37% of students have experienced cyberbullying”. As students spend much of their school days on their tablets, computers, and other devices, there are more opportunities for cyberbullying to occur. Cyberbullying has been “associated with negative outcomes for those who are bullied, including substance use, suicide, and impacts on physical and mental health.” The more schools can adapt procedures for monitoring what’s happening on student devices, the more they can help identify harm before it becomes a safety hazard.

#4 – Inappropriate Content and Online Predation

When major data and access breaches occur, there’s the opportunity for inappropriate content to become distributed onto student devices and for predators to gain access to students. Online predation can put our students at risk. Phishing and ransomware attacks feel so violating because the information of and access to minors is at stake. K-12 schools are responsible for the safety and stewardship of their students. As we become increasingly reliant on virtual learning, devices, and cloud-based sharing, we must ensure we are still protecting our students from inappropriate content, online predation, sextortion, and more.

If you need support in securing your online networks, Technology Lab can help. We specialize in managing IT for K-12 schools’ IT with a focus on security. We understand cybersecurity is more than sophisticated software; our highly trained team is dedicated to monitoring and strengthening your security to identify and prevent attacks and malware. Our well-rounded security strategy focuses on ensuring CIPA compliance, student data security, cybersecurity, and email security. We also offer monthly employee training on email phishing and cybersecurity so your school faculty and staff can remain alert and help prevent threats to your school and students.

Contact Technology Labs today for a free Discovery Call to see how we can help your school upgrade its cybersecurity and keep your students safe.


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