We’re now two years into the COVID-19 pandemic and we continue to see massive digital transformation and innovation shaping the way we live, work, and learn. Technology supports the transformation of every industry imaginable–especially education. New models of learning, such as hybrid, blended, and remote, have led to more accessible education for many. However, with many devices moving out of schools and into the often less-secure homes of students, teachers, and administrators, K-12 cybersecurity threats have become more prevalent. The digitalization of schooling has created an environment that gives cybercriminals even more of an opportunity to target K-12 schools.

We know that schools are under attack. In just one month in 2021, educational organizations were hit by 5.8 million malware attacks – and that’s just what was disclosed publicly. One of the largest incidents involved 1.5 terabytes of data, including academic transcripts, resumes and financial support documents, being exposed due to unsecure processes and storage.

The realities are deeply appreciated by our school leaders. Respondent data from a recent survey found that 86 percent of K-12 and higher education institutions believe their organization has increased exposure to data loss from cyber threats with the growth of staff and students working and learning from home. Yet, despite the prominence and perceived awareness of such threats, 67 percent of those respondents are concerned their existing data protection measures may not be sufficient to cope with malware and ransomware threats. Therefore, educational institutions must urgently take action to improve their protections.

Reflect: Conduct a Risk Assessment, Adopt a Cybersecurity Framework, Balance Risk

To be successful in goal setting, it’s important to reflect on what areas need to be improved and what areas are already in a good place. A cyber risk assessment from a qualified cyber professional is an essential first step in ensuring a school can mitigate losses and recover from cyber threats.

Matt Dascoli is Dell’s Senior Manager of K-12 Strategy. As Senior Manager of K-12 Strategy, Matt’s passion is helping customers make learning a more interactive, hands-on experience. As a former K-12 science teacher, he helped redefine a Virginia based school district’s approach to professional learning and re-envision teaching and learning practices. Additionally, he was the lead architect behind the district’s student laptop deployment. Matt holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration and Supervision from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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