Education & Government
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Jill Holtz
Content Strategy Manager

Understanding cyber threats in education: How board management software can mitigate risks

September 18, 2023
0 min read
How board management software can mitigate risks

As digital transformation in education continues apace, institutions from elementary schools to prestigious universities are facing an unprecedented surge in cyberthreats. Our educational institutions have become prime targets for malicious actors seeking to exploit vulnerabilities in their systems and compromise sensitive student and staff data.

The consequences of such breaches can be far-reaching, not only jeopardizing the security and privacy of individuals but also disrupting the very core of our educational systems.

In this blog, we examine why education boards need to prioritize cybersecurity, challenges facing boards in K-12 and higher education, and why fortifying the digital defenses of your school or university board is a must.

Education boards must embrace cybersecurity

There is a pressing need for governing boards of educational institutions to prioritize cybersecurity as an integral aspect of their governance and risk management strategies.

Beyond ensuring the quality of education, governing bodies are entrusted with safeguarding the integrity of academic records, protecting the personal information of students and faculty, and maintaining the operational continuity of educational institutions.

The growing dependence on technology for curriculum delivery, administrative tasks, and communication has made our educational institutions vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Meanwhile, your board has to make an array of decisions that affect the district, schools, students and stakeholders. Board communications, data handling and information security all come into play here.

Consider these scenarios:

  • A board member emails a document with unencrypted sensitive data to the administrator.
  • Documents containing sensitive data are stored on a file-sharing app that is hacked or accidentally posted in an insecure location.
  • A board member falls victim to a phishing email that appears to be from a trusted source, but is actually a malicious attempt to steal login credentials or distribute malware.
  • Plans for a new school policy are accidentally shared online before legal review has taken place.
  • A board member of a public school or community college uses a weak or easily guessable password for their email or document-sharing accounts.
  • During a board meeting, a member shares confidential documents with the wrong person.

The good news is that board management software can emerge as a powerful ally in mitigating cyberthreats, offering an innovative solution to strengthen your security postures, streamline governance processes and foster resilience in the face of digital challenges.

Cybersecurity challenges facing school and university boards

Governing boards for education confront a multitude of hurdles when it comes to cybersecurity. One of the primary challenges they face is the rapid evolution of cyberthreats, which often outpaces the boards' ability to adapt and respond effectively.

Educational institutions frequently struggle with limited budgets, making it difficult to allocate adequate resources to cybersecurity efforts. Additionally, the diverse and distributed nature of educational systems creates a complex and expansive attack surface that is challenging to secure comprehensively.

Boards must also contend with the ever-growing demand for digital services and the integration of new technologies, such as e-learning platforms and student information systems, which can introduce vulnerabilities if not properly managed and protected.

The risks associated with board communications, data handling, and information security within educational institutions are also problematic.

For example:

  • Board members often communicate sensitive information electronically, and without proper encryption or secure channels. This data can be intercepted or compromised.
  • Board documents can contain very sensitive data, attractive targets for cybercriminals seeking to steal or exploit this information.
  • Inadequate data handling practices and security protocols can lead to data breaches with far-reaching consequences.
  • Document and file-sharing without proper permission controls not only poses security risks but also raises governance, compliance, and reputation issues for public education boards.
  • Beyond data security, the reliability of board operations and decision-making can also be compromised, as cyberincidents may disrupt critical processes and hinder effective governance.
  • The damage inflicted by breaches extends to the institution's reputation, eroding trust among stakeholders — including students, parents, and faculty. This can have long-lasting implications for the educational institution or district's standing and credibility.

Board management software keeps board business safe

Board management software plays a crucial role in enhancing data security and privacy for public schools and universities. First and foremost, these solutions offer robust encryption mechanisms that safeguard sensitive board communications and documents.

This encryption ensures that confidential discussions and materials, such as student records, financial reports, and strategic plans, remain protected from unauthorized access or interception.

Additionally, board management software often incorporates role-based access controls, permitting only authorized individuals to view, edit or share specific documents or information. This granular control helps maintain data integrity by preventing accidental or malicious breaches.

Furthermore, board management software promotes secure data handling practices by centralizing information within a secure digital environment. This minimizes the need for sharing by email or even physical copies of documents, reducing the risk of data theft or loss.

Your board management software also helps ensure compliance with data protection and privacy regulations, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Data retention and deletion policies can be easily implemented and enforced, ensuring that outdated or unnecessary information is disposed of in accordance with legal requirements, such as those stipulated by data privacy regulations.

Regular audits and access logs provided by these platforms enable educational governing bodies to monitor user activity, track document versions, and identify any suspicious behavior promptly.

Your board management solution can also help support cybersecurity training for board members, particularly as new trustees come on board, to make sure they are up to date on your institution’s cybersecurity best practices.

Equip your board with secure tools

Ultimately, by incorporating board management software into their governance processes, public educational institutions can enhance their data security and privacy measures, instilling confidence in their stakeholders while effectively safeguarding sensitive information.

If you haven’t already implemented board management software, now is the time to equip your board with secure tools to protect sensitive information.

Leveraging board management software like Diligent Community helps school and university boards mitigate risks. The right security features, along with daily backups, support and promote practices that protect the sensitive information of your institution and your students while providing the board with a seamless, streamlined tool to share and access pertinent information.


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