Ransomware attacks are the most widespread types of cybersecurity threats the higher education sector is grappling with today. In June 2020 alone, the University of California paid over $1 million ransom after its School of Medicine was attacked by hackers.
But this incident is just the tip of the iceberg as many unreported cybersecurity attacks are happening almost daily.
This begs the question…why is cybersecurity important in the education sector?
Education institutions have become a soft target for cyber-attacks due to the multiple devices used in different departments.
This makes cybersecurity an important subject for education institutions as it helps learners understand how to protect themselves when browsing the internet and beware of the dangers associated with the use of the technology.
In this article, we’re going to discuss the importance of cyber security in the education sector.
Specifically, we’ll talk about the types of cybersecurity threats targeting education institutions, the reasons cyber-attacks have escalated in the education sector, and what schools and institutions can do to protect themselves from cybercriminals.
The Importance of Cybersecurity in Education?
Cybersecurity in the education sector is not optional anymore.
Even though the adoption of technology in the education sector has made life easier for students, it has also brought a lot of dangers since it has exposed a lot of educational institutions to cybercriminals.
This means that it’s important for students and other stakeholders in the education sector to understand how to protect computers and the internet, especially when seeking essay help or when researching information to safeguard information from malicious people.
According to numerous cyber attack statistics published on the Hackmageddon website, many U.S. higher education institutions have reported cases of cyberattacks. In March 2022, the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University reported that it was attacked by ransomware. In January this year, mountains of information about students and employees of the North Orange County Community College District was exposed. And this is just a fraction of the total cyber-attacks reported since not all educational institutions are willing to report cybersecurity threats they have experienced.
Types of Cybersecurity Threats Targeting Education Institution
For students and other stakeholders in the education sector to protect computers and the internet against cybercriminals, it’s important to understand the types of cyberattacks that education institution that target education institutions.
Here are some of the cyberattacks targeting education institutions:
- DDoS: Also known as Distributed Denial Service attack, DDoS targets online users and websites. The attackers hijack one’s network in a bid to steal information and demand ransom payment or expose it. According to a report released by Netscout, a network security provider, DDoS attacks targeting education institutions increased by 102% in the second half of 2021.
- Espionage: Another type of cybersecurity attack is espionage where the bad guys spy on online activities by students, educators, and other users in education institutions to threaten, bully them or steal and corrupt their information. This attack happens on an unprotected network.
- Data theft: Data theft occurs when cybercriminals use espionage to steal sensitive information such as students’ contact information, grading system, and more from the education institution.
Cybercriminals and other malicious online users use all the described types of cyberattacks above to either steal sensitive information online and sell it or demand a ransom payment from the education institution.
In most cases, when they hijack or take control of the school’s network and other systems, they block access to the data until a certain amount of money is paid to them.
In the wake of Covid-19, Howard University was forced to cancel classes after hackers shut down the campus Wi-Fi. In the same year, the University of California, San Francisco, a renowned medical research institution that was working to find the cure for the COVID-19 pandemic had to $1.14M approximately £910,000 ransom after hackers hijacked its network.
Reasons for the Increased Cyberattacks in Education Institutions
From the few incidences mentioned above, it’s clear that cybersecurity threats are ever-increasing in the education sector. Here are a few reasons why educational institutions have become an easy target by cybercriminals:
- Limited budgets: To protect their networks and computers, education institutions need better and smart technologies that most institutions can’t afford due to insufficient budgets.
- Education institutions have too many open networks and use lots of applications that provide opportunities for hackers to attack.
- Lack of a professional tech crew: Hiring a professional tech crew can be costly and most learning institutions working with a limited budget can’t afford that hence much of the tech stuff is handled by people without enough tech knowledge.
- Increased usage of devices: In most education institutions, students are connected to the network via different devices some of which aren’t protected. Every device connected to the institution’s Wi-Fi is an opportunity for hackers to attack at any time.
How Education Institutions Can Protect Themselves From Cybercriminals
Regardless of the increased cybersecurity threats that the education sector is facing currently, there are still many ways education institutions can protect themselves from hackers. Here are a few handy tips for education institutions to safeguard their computers and internet even with limited budgets and resources:
- Educate everyone about the different types of cybersecurity attacks including how to detect suspicious online activities and how to overcome them.
- Invest in basic security software to protect against the most common cyber-attacks such as DDoS, ransomware, espionage, and phishing.
- Encourage students, teachers, and other staff to active two-step authentication on their devices and online accounts.
The increased cyber-attacks in the education sector make cybersecurity more important in learning institutions than ever. The good news is that there are ways schools and universities can use to protect themselves from hackers and malicious people online.