Our school system is growing exponentially, but there are those that seem to not want it to grow. Hackers and cyber thieves, for whatever their reason is, have been found to infiltrate school networks.
A recent article from Fedscoop speaks about how a school was targeted and their network held to ransom. This resulted in the children not being able to write their online statwide tests. While this is an American news report, and it’s been said that K-12 schools are being affected, it is also a very real possibility here in South Africa.
K-12 schooling, in the USA, refers to the public sector of schooling, from Kindergarten (our Grade RR) through to Grade 12. Some public schools keep all the children’s data online, and it appears that they are not as security savvy as their counterparts, the private schooling sector. It could be a lack of funding perhaps, or education on all that is cyber related.
So, while this may not be as rife in South Africa as it is in the USA, this does not mean we should sit back on our laurels. We should be addressing the possibility of a cyber-attack on public school networks before it does become a real problem.
What can the schools do to keep their students and educators secure?
1. Installing a robust cyber security software
Your firewall is the first place to start, but having a monitoring system that can warn you is also important. School networks should be especially protected due to the private and sensitive nature of the data stored.
2. Password Savvy
Teachers and students should be creating multi-facet authentication passwords, and changing them regularly. This will dissuade the alleged hackers from infiltrating the system.
3. Off-site Backups
An obvious one, but you would be surprised at how many schools don’t do this. We have access to many cloud solutions now, and sending our data, on a regular basis, to these cloud pockets is an easy process to set up.
4. Set up education classes
The best medicine is education. Educating our kids on the best practice when it comes to all that is internet and cyber related, can set them up to warding off possible attacks.
Being vigilant with passwords, not sharing private user names, and making a point of letting the authorities know when something is suspicious, can all be taught via these sessions.
5. Closing down all computers and devises at the end of the day
It is very tempting to just put a computer to sleep when leaving for the day. But, besides that it will lengthen your computers lifespan, it is safer to switch off due to possible cyber-attacks.
6. BYOD Policy
“Bring your own device” policy is a good one to instill from the onset. This way, you will have less and less students utilising your network via the normal channels. With their own devices, they can still connect to the school network, but through a guest log in. Guest log ins can be managed simply, and cyber warnings can be put in place here too.
7. Sending of files
Files need to be transferred around from time to time, and having safer system to do this is paramount. With the cloud options available, it is better to share files this way, than to send them via email or another online platform. Dropbox is the most popular, but not the only cloud option out there. Be sure to choose a platform that works with your system and school well.