This past August, the Center for Internet Security’s Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), which serves state and local governments, reported that it expects an increase of as much as 86 percent in cybersecurity incidents aimed at K-12 school systems over the course of the current school year. Attacks on schools had already dramatically increased during the rush to distance learning during the pandemic. Having found some fairly easy targets, attackers are now piling on with threats like phishing schemes that can lead to ransomware, data theft and other criminal activity.

K-12 organizations almost never attract the highly sophisticated types of attack used for stealing national secrets. However, they are regularly attacked by a plethora of hackers looking for a quick buck or worse, wanting to steal the personally identifiable information of teachers, staff, and especially young students with blank slate credit histories ripe for exploit.

Countering these rampant threats is especially difficult when factoring in one of attackers’ most valuable victim profiles: children. Growing up in a continually connected world, the internet is integral to the lives of today’s young students. But digital natives aren’t necessarily being taught about proper cyber hygiene practices needed to safeguard their home or school technologies. For schools, the risks are compounded by the increased number of personal devices being connected into the school network, where hidden threats can quickly spread. Once hackers gain a foothold in the system, poor cyber hygiene also improves their ability to move laterally and escalate privileges as they go, compounding the damage.

Consequently, it’s very important for K-12 organizations to prioritize cyber hygiene practices that can help limit exposure from pervasive attacks. The following policies and actions will support schools’ preparedness:

John Evans, Chief Technology Advisor at WWT John engages with clients on strategy, innovation and transformation to develop and deliver solutions that are tailor-made for business in government and education. He is a highly consultative and knowledgeable technology advisor focused on achieving tangible operational and business outcomes for WWT’s customers at enterprise scale. Juan Rodriguez, Strategic Advisor for the Public Sector at WWT Juan is responsible for supporting the development and execution of all go-to-market strategies and activities—in collaboration with a talented group of experienced, diverse leaders—including field sales enablement, integrated field marketing, contract capture, vertical business development, partner and solution execution, and overall growth.

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