Dennis Underwood
Published on
March 23, 2023

Why Cyber Security In Education Is More Important Than Ever

These days, no industry is safe from cybercrime. However, cyber security in education is critical. Read this article to find out why.

Did you know that one out of four schools were the victims of cyber attacks last year? For many people, the thought of attacking an innocent school seems prosperous. But the reality is that this attitude has allowed cyber attacks to flourish in education. 

That's why cyber security in education is more important than ever. But what are the threats to educational organizations? And how do you protect against them? If you want to discover the answer to these critical questions, you're in the right place. Let's get started!

Biggest Cybersecurity Threats to Educational Organizations

The reason why educational facilities are so vulnerable has to do with their openness. By its nature, the education industry has to be open to promoting research and collaboration. Sadly, this openness also makes it vulnerable to various security issues

That number of threats is increasing every day. A recent report found that in three years, the number of reported cyber incidents rose from 400 to 1,200. This section will explain how these threats could compromise your educational facility. 


There's a reason why there were 236 million ransomware attacks in the first quarter of 2022. This is a highly lucrative form of malware

Here's how it works: ransomware encrypts files from a device or system. That means you won't be able to access any of the educational data you need. To get it back, you will need to pay a ransom. 

Related: Double Extortion Ransomware: What You Need to Know


Phishing is a cyber threat, typically through email or social media messaging. The hacker will pose as a trusted entity, like the university or school. Then they'll ask for sensitive information, like social security numbers and passwords. 

This isn't limited to students either. Admission offices will receive lots of emails from potential students. The same goes for other faculty whose poorly worded questions need to be corrected. 

Data Breaches

Data breaches are especially damaging to educational institutions. Often this data can include sensitive financial aid information or staff social security numbers. 

Unfortunately, they're becoming increasingly common in education. One study found that since 2005 there have been 1,851 data breaches that totaled 28.6 million records. 

Data Altering Attacks

Data alerting attacks change the data to the school's servers, or from the school's servers.  

This can be done either by accessing and changing the data where it rests, such as in a database, or by changing the data in transit between the server and teacher or student. Someone will intercept communication that is going on between two parties, in this case, students and the school. They'll then alter the communication to gain personal or financial information. 

Identity Theft Attacks

Identity theft attacks target a person's personally identifiable information. Once they get that information, they can begin to target that individual's finances, eventually taking over their entire identity. These attacks are now being used to target college-aged young adults. 

Why? Because they've been online their whole lives. What’s more, they’re also very busy, and typically have not yet accumulated the financial monitoring savviness of older adults. As such, they're especially susceptible. 

A man doing online shopping with a stolen credit card

API Attacks

An API attack is an attempt by an attacker to make an application programming interface (API) to conduct an operation outside the intended functionality of the service provider.  

This includes improperly disclosing information, or accepting unauthorized instructions to conduct.  An example of the latter may be to improperly change which student receives a scholarship.

It can expose the private information of an educational institution and the underlying way its system functions. 

Related: Russian Oil and Gas set Afire in Cyber Attacks - How Is NATO Affected?   

Challenges of Protecting Educational Institutions

Educational institutions aren't like other industries. As such, they face unique challenges when it comes to protecting against cyber attacks. In this section, we'll go over some of these specific challenges. 

Constantly Moving Employees and Students

Both students and employees are constantly changing accounts and group memberships. These various accounts change multiple times a year, across multiple accesses. 

Basically, it’s like having companies experience multiple re-organizations throughout the year with most of the staff of a large company.

Increase In Collaboration

Education requires collaboration. Students need to work with other students on projects. Professors and teachers communicate lesson plans and research materials. And, in this digital environment, everyone is collaborating on forums. 

Collaboration is a great thing, but not from a cybersecurity perspective. All it takes is someone disguised as someone else for a cybersecurity crisis on your hands. 

Outdated Technology

It's common to find schools working with a limited budget. This often means they need more money to update their technology. Sadly, this represents a security concern. 

Older computers and devices are much easier for hackers to access, significantly if they haven't been updated. This is a problem because a school’s software needs to be available for students with older technologies, or specialized technologies.  

This is especially important for custom software or hardware that may be needed for special education environments or learners with disabilities. What’s more, remote learning may involve lower-income students' personal computers that are likely not as updated.

Limited IT Staff

This limited budget can also extend to the education institution's IT staff. It's extremely common for a school or university’s IT staff to be extremely understaffed. 

Often the team is doing everything they can just to keep the classes running efficiently. As such, they have little to no time to prepare for potential cyber threats. 

How to Fortify Your Educational Organization from Cyber Security Threats

Hopefully, we've convinced you to take your educational organization's cybersecurity threats seriously. For starters, you'll want to ensure that you follow these five pillars of cybersecurity. However, you should also implement the advice we give in this section. 

Assess Data and Devices That Need Protection

It's essential to take stock of all the data and devices currently on your education network. Not all of this data is going to need to be protected. Some are a lot more important than others. 

Prioritizing which data you want to watch through a data protection plan can help you best use your resource. The same goes for devices. Find out which needs protecting and implement firewalls and encryption to protect them. 

Implement A Strong Security Policy

Security policies can prevent your students and staff from accidentally engaging in cyber threats. For example, you might block access to sites that pose a risk on the school network. You might also monitor the apps that students download on your network. 

Mobile security is going to need to be critical to this policy. The Internet of Things means that students constantly use their mobile devices. So, your approach should prevent hackers from targeting these devices. 

Have an Incident Response Plan

When a cybersecurity incident occurs at your school, every minute counts. A few seconds can often mean the difference between accessing a single device and an entire network. That's why it's vital to have an incident response plan. 

This is a detailed document with instructions for the IT staff on what to do. Without this type of plan in place, your staff will make mistakes that will lead to wasted valuable time. 

Incident monitoring is only practical if your business possesses deep technical data. Read more about how CyberCrucible solutions help you gather and analyze this data. 

a teacher showing a student how to update software

Perform Regular System Updates

Older versions of your operating systems, apps, and browsers have security flaws. These holes, vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and ripe areas for cybercriminals. 

That's why it's essential to ensure that you and your students are running the latest versions of everything. The updates come with patches that plug these security holes. 

Backup Data Regularly

Both ransomware and phishing attacks try to cause data loss. The solution is to back up your data regularly. However, it's important to remember that there are better solutions than this. Hackers can also target your backup data. 

That's why it's essential to back the data up in multiple areas. For example, you might have it backed up in a cloud and on a hard drive. CyberCrucible protects against attackers by deleting any backups you have. 

Related: Backup and Disaster Recovery Strategies often require a cold war mindset.

Install Anti-Malware

Anti-malware software could be better. Every day hackers are finding new ways to get around it. But it's vital to remember that it's much better than nothing. 

We recommend using multiple anti-malware programs that work together. For example, you can use Cyber Crucible for extortion and theft prevention, while using a more traditional anti-malware solution to scan files. 

That way, you can have all your bases covered in terms of security. 

Manage Access Control

Both students and faculty should only have access to the programs and data they need. Access control is the perfect way to accomplish this. Implementing this type of control has two main benefits. First, it prevents students from accessing programs they're not supposed to. 

Second, if a hacker gains access to a student's account, it limits the amount of damage that they can do. 

Educate Your Staff on the Latest Threats

It would help if you ensured that your students and staff are updated on basic cybersecurity protocols. And remember that this is an ongoing education. New threats and malware are coming out every day. 

So make sure you keep everyone updated on the latest trends they should keep an eye out for. 

Make Cyber Security a Priority for Your Educational Institution

As an educational institution, your students and staff have the right to study without worrying about stolen information. That, along with the costly nature of cyber attacks, is why you must invest in proper security today. 

Want to learn more about how CyberCrucible can protect your education institution from ransomware? Contact us today, and we'll walk you through everything you should know.

About the author
Dennis Underwood

Dennis Underwood is a veteran, cybersecurity leader, inventor, and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience. He is an expert at cryptography, intrusion discovery and analysis, having discovered multiple previously unreported intrusions to clients throughout his career. Currently, he is leading a team of like-minded experts delivering next generation intrusion discovery and ransomware response automation tools to consumers.

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