Education & Government
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Jill Holtz
Content Strategy Manager

5 key cybersecurity standards for education boards to follow

July 20, 2023
0 min read
key cybersecurity standards for education boards to follow

The need for educational institutions to adhere to stringent cybersecurity standards has never been more crucial. These organizations — from K-12 to universities — house a “treasure trove” of sensitive data, including student records, staff information and even research findings, which makes them prime targets for cyberattacks.

Cybersecurity standards are an indispensable shield in an era where digital threats loom large over the educational landscape. Ensuring the adoption of robust cybersecurity standards not only safeguards this invaluable information, but also upholds the integrity of the educational process, protects the privacy of students and faculty, and maintains public trust.

School and university boards play a critical role in developing cybersecurity standards for their district or institution in order to protect sensitive data related to district business and student information. Boards can take several actions to prevent, mitigate and respond to cybersecurity threats. These cybersecurity standards can be implemented before, during and after an event.

5 key cybersecurity standards for education boards to follow

1. Do not store sensitive information on ''the cloud''

Storage on a public cloud (like Google) may seem like an easy option, but it is bad cybersecurity practice. When it comes to sensitive data the information should be stored on a secure, private server, and on sites with high-level encryption (256-bit encryption is the strongest level of security currently available).

Many cloud-based sites put non-public information at risk. These data breaches may be unintentional, or could be a result from weaknesses in the applications that are used to access the cloud or other ineffective cybersecurity standards.

2. Have a recovery plan

Data loss can be devastating for a school district or community college. Having a backup system in place to restore full performance and function in the event of sensitive data exposure or loss is imperative to protecting and maintaining sensitive data related to the students and district business.

Board management software that encrypts all data, features automatic archiving in the ''Library'' function, and has a daily backup service to help mitigate risks related to sensitive data loss or exposure can help school and college boards reach sounder cybersecurity standards. Having a plan for worst-case scenarios is imperative to implementing cybersecurity standards.

3. Know who to report a threat to

What if a staff member pays for an invoice that turns out to be from a fraudulent e-mail account?

What if a board member clicks on a link from an email that appears to be from their “superintendent” not realizing it’s a phishing attack?

Staff, school board members and the community need to know how a cybersecurity incident, like a data breach or phishing scam, should be reported. The district or colleges IT manager or technological and leadership teams, and certain law enforcement agencies, may need to be notified.

Create a flow chart of the individuals or agencies that need to be notified based on the incident, and include it in your cybersecurity standards. Be sure that this information is available to all staff and board members. The sooner individuals are able to report these incidents, the more easily the issue can be mitigated.

4. Do not use e-mail for board business

E-mail is the least effective and secure form of digital communication for education boards. E-mails and their attachments are not encrypted or completely secure. Additionally, e-mail communication between board members regarding board work can be a violation of Open Meeting Laws, so it is imperative board members tread lightly when it comes to e-mail communication.

Be sure to include specific language in the cybersecurity standards regarding e-mail communication for the school district or college to ensure that staff, students, and administrators know what information should never be shared through e-mail.

5. Develop and promote policies regarding cybersecurity standards

We've discussed several practices that should be addressed throughout the district or college with staff, students, and administrators, whether it be communicating via e-mail, physical copies of sensitive information, or storing sensitive information on an unsecure ''cloud.''

Implementing district-wide policies that encourage responsible use of technology and networks is an effective way to ensure that standards are met. Educating students and staff on cybersecurity standards, and why these standards are critical in protecting district and student information, is vital to cultivating a culture that shares value in safeguarding the district and larger community.

Utilizing the right board management system, education boards can share policies regarding cybersecurity standards for continuous reference by the public, staff or administrators (or all three!).

Board management software that promotes cybersecurity standards

When school and college boards use board management software, it is imperative that they look at the features and capabilities of the software that supports the district's cybersecurity standards. The cybersecurity features and functions of Diligent Community helps support an efficient, effective and successful education board.

Ensuring that your board's information is protected and secure means that your board has more time and energy to spend on other important issues. With the right technology partner, school boards can promote and support strong cybersecurity standards.

Diligent Community's security and features support and promote cybersecurity practices that protect the sensitive information of your district and your students. Maintaining secure and encrypted digital records, strong recovery methods, and a secure cloud network all help support your school’s culture of strong cybersecurity standards.


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