President/CEO of Centex Technologiesan IT consulting firm with offices in central Texas, Dallas, Austin and Atlanta.
Is your school a soft target for hackers? Who runs your web hosting? Are there vulnerabilities in your network infrastructure that could make it easy for someone to break in? Who has access to your network and how is that access managed? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you could potentially compromise your educational institution’s sensitive data. Recently, educational institutions that don’t focus on cybersecurity have become easy targets for hackers.
Educational institutions must implement strict protocols to combat cybersecurity breaches. How to start a security protocol.
Familiarize yourself with your infrastructure and network access points.
It’s important to understand the network, its components, and the people who have access to parts of the infrastructure. Get help from an IT professional to understand potential network vulnerabilities and how best to manage the risks involved.
Secure network access.
The next step is to secure access to the institution’s network. This is an important step as staff and students will be connecting their personal devices to the network. To secure network access, you must authenticate devices with certificates, use the latest version of strong password encryption for network access, and create a list of approved applications/software that are allowed to operate within the network.
Secure user access.
Assign users a level of access to relevant applications on the network based on their needs and requirements. Employees require specific levels of access, but students require a different level of access.
It is recommended that institutions establish detailed policies for this, including the benefits of using strong passwords, enabling multi-factor authentication, allowing for single sign-on for each system, and setting account lockout thresholds.
Maintain control over network security.
Make sure you configure the appropriate network security controls for your facility. These controls include using a separate network for personal devices and school-owned devices, filtering outbound and inbound traffic, tracking unauthorized access attempts, setting up security alerts, and performing regular backups.
Update the system, network, and policies.
Educational institutions should keep their systems and networks current by installing the latest software versions and maintaining security patches (updates in the code). This ensures that the network does not contain any vulnerabilities that can be exploited by the threats that can cause a breach. At the same time, policies must be documented and regularly updated to accommodate response tactics for new or emerging threats.
Invest in cybersecurity training.
Users (e.g., students, staff, and vendors) should undergo some form of cybersecurity training as defined in the educational institution’s organizational policies. For example, a school might have teachers discuss computer policies with students, and also have IT staff discuss policies with staff. This extra step would arm them with the knowledge needed to securely set up their personal devices and help them understand how to avoid threats and security breaches. Cyber training also keeps them up-to-date on the latest threats that can compromise devices before the problem escalates.
It is important for educational institutions of all sizes to provide a strong cybersecurity policy and educate all users on how to avoid security breaches. All educational institutions must have an effective cybersecurity strategy and emergency protocols in place in the event of a security breach. Planning ahead is key to preventing a cyber disaster.
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