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How Educational Facilities Can Make Cybersecurity A Priority

President/CEO of Centex Technologies, an IT consulting company with offices in Central Texas, Dallas, Austin and Atlanta.

Is your educational institution a soft target for hackers? Who does your web hosting? Are there any vulnerabilities in your network infrastructure that could make it easy for someone to infiltrate? Who has access to your network, and how is that access being managed? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you could potentially be compromising your educational institution’s sensitive data. Recently, education institutions not focused on cybersecurity have become easy targets for hackers.

Educational institutions need to adopt strict protocols to combat cybersecurity breaches. Here is how to begin a security protocol.

Understand your infrastructure and the network access points.

It is important to understand the network, its components and the people who have access to parts of the infrastructure. Get help from an IT professional to learn about possible security vulnerabilities in the network and to understand the best ways to manage risks posed by them.

Secure network access.

The next step is to secure access to the institution’s network. This is an important step because staff and students will be connecting their personal devices to the network. To secure the network access, you must authenticate the devices using certificates, use the latest version of encryption with strong passwords for network access and create a list of approved applications/software that are allowed to operate within the network.

Secure user access.

Assign users an access level based on their needs and requirements to relevant applications on the network. Staff members will need certain access levels, but students will need a different level of access.

It is recommended for institutions to establish detailed policies for this, including the benefits of using strong passwords, enabling multifactor authentication, considering single sign-on for each system and setting up account lockout thresholds.

Maintain network security control.

Make sure to configure the appropriate network security controls for your facility. These controls involve using a separate network for personal devices and school-owned devices, filtering the outgoing and incoming traffic, tracking unauthorized access attempts, setting up security alerts and performing regular backups.

Update the system, network and policies.

Educational institutions should keep their systems and networks updated by installing the latest versions of software and maintaining security patches (updates in the code). This will help ensure that the network does not contain any vulnerability that can be exploited by the threats that may cause a breach. At the same time, policies must be documented and updated regularly to include response tactics for new or upcoming threats.

Invest in cybersecurity training.

Users (e.g., students, staff and vendors) should undergo some form of cybersecurity training as defined by the organizational policy of the educational facility. As an example, a school could have the teachers go over the computer policies with the students and also have the IT members go over the rules with the staff. This extra step would equip them with the necessary knowledge to be able to set up their personal devices in a secure manner and help them understand how to avoid threats and breaches. Cyber training will also keep them up to date on the latest threats that may compromise devices before the problem escalates.

It is important for educational facilities of all sizes to provide a strict policy for cybersecurity, as well as educate all users on how to avoid breaches. All educational institutes must have an effective cybersecurity strategy, as well as emergency response protocols, if a breach occurs. Planning ahead is the key to preventing a cyber disaster.


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