Creating a Cyber-Safe School District in 8 Basic Steps


With summer in full swing, it’s a good time for k12 school districts to reassess cybersecurity strategies and map out steps for keeping students and teachers safe from cybercrime in the upcoming school year.

How aware is your school district of the latest cyber threats, and what are your plans to mitigate them?

Digital Technology Brings Opportunities, Risks

As K-12 educators continue to seek out opportunities for richer, more personalized education experiences, digital technology becomes more embedded in the classroom. From mobile devices and wireless science tools to BYOD policies, these trends are focused on helping teach students develop 21st century skills.

Digital tools aren’t only used in the classroom. Student records, state assessments, parent communication — more and more aspects of K-12 education are going digital.

But these advances also create new challenges, especially as school districts struggle to balance budgets. Much of the outdated IT infrastructure wasn’t built to address modern cybersecurity threats, putting student and staff data (even safety) at risk.

Cyber Criminals Study Potential Targets

Cybercriminals have grown much more sophisticated over the last decade. By doing their homework, they identify targets that are both easier to breach and can provide more abundant personally identifiable information that’s valuable on the dark market. School districts can easily become low-hanging fruit, especially when they lack the in-house expertise to protect their information.

Eight Steps for Preventing, Detecting and Mitigating Risks

Monitor outbound traffic and data flow. Implement a data-loss prevention policy and ensure the security systems of your network, hosts and devices are configured properly.

Encrypt all sensitive data. Infosec professionals have adopted the mindset that a data breach is not a matter of “if” but “when” — and encryption is the easiest way to ensure data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands in the event of a breach.

Secure all devices. Every mobile device connected to the network provides a potential entry point into the network and must be secured. This also means carefully weighing the risks before implementing a BYOD policy.

Filter web traffic. This not only helps comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act and helps keep out distractions such as social media, but can also prevent malware attacks.

Educate staff. Train teachers and administrators about the implications of data breaches as well as teach them basic cybersecurity hygiene.

Educate students. Students may be savvy enough to break into the school’s network or teacher’s grade book, but they may not understand how those actions puts the entire school district at risk.

Maintain the infrastructure. Ensure all your systems are upgraded and patched regularly.

Enroll outside help. Most school districts don’t have the in-house expertise to keep abreast with the threats and best practices. Hire outside experts — and make funding for IT infrastructure a priority.

A partner of Fortinet, neteffect technologies offers the services, technology and K-12 education experience to help you balance innovation and cyber risk. Our experts specialize in managed IT services and security solutions that leverage Fortinet’s innovative, high-performing network security platform.