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Why the Education Sector is a Prime Target for Cybercriminals
While cyber attacks against the education sector are nothing new, the increasing use of technology for teaching, learning, and school operations has continued to mark schools as prime targets for cybercriminals. According to Microsoft's Threat Intelligence Platform, the education sector made up over 80% of the enterprise-class malware encounters in the last 30 days.

What Makes the Education Sector a Prime Target?

With the onset of the pandemic over two years ago, there was a significant push to support remote environments, including distance learning and classroom environments. Unfortunately, this shift to remote learning opened the door for multiple points of attack to which malicious actors did not previously have immediate access. As a result, the overall cyber attack surface increased exponentially. Couple this with the knowledge that it is generally well known that schools are typically not well funded for cyber security marks them as a desirable target for malicious actors.

The Greatest Threats Facing Schools Today

The most common, as you may have guessed, are social engineering attacks, specifically phishing. Individuals working in the education sector are generally trusting. They want to be responsive and help people, so they tend to fall prey to social engineering attacks more quickly. Additionally, many school districts, significantly smaller rural ones, don't even have a full-time employee dedicated to cybersecurity. The position is generally a 'shared responsibility' role filled by an individual who may not have the necessary knowledge or training to implement a cyber security program successfully.

How Schools Can Defend Against Cyber Risks

What can be done to minimize the cyber risks that schools may be exposed to? School systems still have a lot to learn when it comes to cybersecurity. However, as with any industry, building a security and data protection culture is paramount. It takes a lot of work to accomplish. It requires a significant amount of time, resources, and ongoing training to implement, with training being the paramount factor. In most instances, it is not our technology that has failed, exposing us to risk. Instead, it's individuals acting in ways that generate risk by doing things such as not using strong passwords, not enabling multi-factor authentication, or leaving sensitive documents in public areas. When choosing a simpler way of doing things for the sake of convenience, security is often sacrificed and can mean the difference between daily operations as usual and a full-scale data breach.

Organizations and school districts should start by first performing an internal risk assessment. Begin by first identifying any key stakeholders for managing your security needs. Next, identify your gaps or weak areas. Then generate a structured plan for addressing those areas, clearly defining areas of responsibility for those involved. Ongoing training is necessary and is best received by employees when there is clear support from leadership around the importance of security awareness training. Implement a continuous training program throughout the year, not just as a single endeavor at the beginning of the school year.

Here at RedTeam security, we have the expertise to help you determine where your security risk exists. Whether performing a Cyber Security Risk Assessment, Social Engineering Campaign, or comprehensive Red Teaming engagement, our organization is here to assist in any capacity you may need. Schedule a meeting with our team of security experts and start securing your business.

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