Cyber risks have grown more prevalent since organizations across all industries migrated to the online sphere. The educational sector is no exception to the risk. In August and September of last year, the number of ransomware attacks aimed at K-12 education made up 57% of all reported ransomware incidents — a huge jump from the 28% reported from January to July. The rapid shift to remote learning arrangements has put educational institutions in a vulnerable position. Students, teachers, and their data are all at risk. But to protect against these cyber risks, one must know exactly what they’re protecting against.

Cyber Risks to Watch Out For


Malware collectively refers to the many types of malicious software. It’s more prominent in remote arrangements, because students and teachers alike are more exposed to potentially harmful software.

Common examples include viruses, ransomware, and spyware. They can cause a wide array of problems, from corrupting data to stealing it without the user’s awareness. Ransomware is particularly troublesome as it locks the user out of their own system. Hackers then demand payment in exchange for returning network control.

Insecure Remote Access

Remote arrangements mean that teachers will be using personal devices to access the school’s cloud systems and other databases. This presents a high level of risk given that personal devices typically have lax security against hackers. Cyber criminals can exploit unprotected networks and devices to access sensitive information.

Phishing Attacks

Phishing emails are disguised as reputable links and attempt to have users reveal their personal information, like their password or credit card details. Since students and teachers will be using devices that aren’t protected under the organization’s system, this increases their likelihood of falling for phishing scams. For example, students might receive malicious emails that claim to be from their teachers or school staff, as they are more likely to open these.

Minimizing Cyber Risk

With the heightened risk of cyber attacks, educational institutions need to improve their data protection strategies. One way to do this is to deploy a virtual private network (VPN) over all school systems, including the systems people can access remotely. This protects all the data that flows in and out of the VPN by encrypting it.

But to really improve the organization’s cybersecurity policies, the best option is to hire a dedicated cyber professional. However, this might be easier said than done. In 2020, the cybersecurity talent gap stood at 3.1 million, according to the (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study. That means the cybersecurity industry needs to produce 3.1 million cyber professionals to supply the current demand.

In the US, specifically, the size of the cybersecurity workforce is estimated to be around 879,000, while the national gap stands at 359,000. In order to cater to this demand universities have had to open up their cybersecurity degrees to online students. Those who study cybersecurity degrees online are taught the industry’s best reactive tactics to eliminate vulnerabilities. With more experts being taught at universities, and with many using virtual labs for real world experience, higher education institutions have some of the strongest cyber defense systems in the U.S. This means that the skills developed are easily transferable to other types of schools.

Schools are able to hire cyber professionals who can implement more robust authentication systems, create data backup plans, and boost network security. These measures effectively aid in the secure management and transition of data, increasing an organization’s defenses against cybercriminals. Furthermore, they can train educators themselves on how they can bolster their device and network security at home and lower the risk for themselves, the schools, and their students.

As a teacher, you can impart these cybersecurity tips to students. These range from simple steps, like picking a good password and keeping it a secret, to more complex lessons that can go into detail about the different types of scams. After all, educating students and teachers on the importance of cybersecurity is just as important as the improvement of the current system.

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Submitted by: JBrightwell