Educational institutions changed the way they operate immensely in the last several years. With the outbreak of the pandemic and the rise of online learning, they needed to board that train quickly. Plus, in the age of digital transformations, most educational institutions decided to switch to smart technologies.
All of this means that educational institutions are handling more sensitive data than ever. That includes their students’ and staff’s financial and personal information, student records, important research data, and more. Below, we’ve put together a guide with the best practices that will help educational institutions improve cybersecurity for students and staff.
1.Training & Education
The number one step in implementing proper cybersecurity in an educational institution is to have everyone on board. It’s not a one-man job, and all participants need to learn the basics of how to protect themselves and others.
This is why institutions should organize training for their employees and students to teach them about:
- safe practices and online behavior
- cybersecurity threats and their manifestations
- most common scams
- risks of unsafe behaviors
- tools for protecting themselves
Teaching them about the importance of cybersecurity will build a solid foundation for all the steps you, as the institution, will take next.
Considering that educational institutions have different systems and datasets that need to be accessed every day, multifactor authentication should be implemented wherever possible. That means that to access or login into any of these servers, a person would need to pass several different steps of authentication:
- password or PIN
- fingerprint or facial recognition
- answering a question
- solving a puzzle
- using a physical security or smart card
In addition, there should be a strong password policy reinforced among the employees to make sure they’re not using their children’s names or their dates of birth. Finally, the server should log them out after a short period of inactivity to avoid malpractice.
Students should learn to do so as well. Whether they’re creating a profile on an academic ghostwriting service or logging into the college server, this practice is a must. This way, everyone’s looking out for themselves.
3.Cross-Department Access Denial
Another great practice that helps educational institutions keep their data safe is limiting access to servers and data. A person from one department should not have access to servers other than those they’re using directly.
This way, only a very limited set of people will be responsible for implementing smart practices in each department. They would be the solely responsible ones, so they would keep their eyes wide open and look out for any threats.
4.Regular Software Updates
Did you know that 84% of code has open-source vulnerabilities? Plus, malware, phishing, scams, and threats are all evolving as we speak. Each day you can hear about a new type of virus that attacks your system or a scam that stole someone’s sensitive data. This is why educational institutions need to make sure they’re evolving as well.
To do so, they need to regularly update the software they’re using and the operating systems that serve their students and staff. These need to be fully equipped to resist the latest vulnerabilities, and you can never neglect to keep them as up-to-date as possible.
5.Full Firewall & Antivirus Coverage
All educational institutions use some form of firewall and antivirus protection to keep their servers and systems safe. But, many of them prioritize certain servers over others and only protect the most important ones.
The truth is, everything can fall like a house of cards if there’s only one unprotected area of the entire system.
So, here are the practices to always implement:
- install firewalls and antivirus on all devices and servers used in the institution
- regularly update them
- learn about the latest threats and add new protection tools if necessary
- run tests to see how well your protection’s working
This way, you’ll be safe no matter who tries to breach your system and how.
6.Backup the Data
Finally, if there is a cybersecurity attack and they manage to steal your sensitive data, you need to have a backup plan on how to retrieve it. Backing up the data and storing it somewhere safe is the ideal way to go. Just make sure your storage is protected as well to avoid making your system more vulnerable.
Educational institutions need to invest time and money into putting together the perfect cybersecurity system that will work on everyone’s behalf. If the system is updated and the users are acting responsibly, there should be no worry about threats and data leaks.
Use our guide to implement smart and safe practices in your educational institution and start working on it ASAP.
Ruby Butz is an IT specialist and a blogger. She writes about the latest in the world of technology, helping businesses and institutions learn about innovation and use the benefits of modern-day software, tools, and apps.