How technology can help school boards mitigate cyberattacks
Sadly, cyberattacks are just a fact of school life now; from ransomware to phishing, the types of threats are evolving as cyber risks continue to grow. According to both The State of Ransomware 2023 published by Sophos and the 2023 Sonic Wall Cyber Threat Report, the education sector was the most likely sector to have experienced a ransomware attack in the last year, with K-12 schools experiencing a massive increase in attacks.
While school board members may not have cybersecurity expertise, they are still responsible for approving school district policies for robust cyber risk management. Mitigating cyber risk is now a priority and, along with promoting a culture of strong cybersecurity practices, technology can be a vital weapon in the battle against cyber threats.
Ways that technology can be used to mitigate cyber risks
School boards can leverage technology to help prevent, mitigate and respond to cybersecurity threats across a number of key areas, from information storage to secure communications to preparing plans for cyberattacks.
Storing sensitive data securely
It may be tempting to use email or basic file-sharing platforms to send information and documents, but this makes boards and districts vulnerable to cyber threats, including viruses, phishing scams, malware and the exposure of sensitive information.
When it comes to sensitive data, the information should be stored on a secure server and on sites with a high level of encryption.
Board management software can help by providing encrypted repositories for all board meeting documents and information.
Having a backup system in place to enable your district to function in the event of an attack is imperative. You don’t want to lose important information related to the students and your district business. Keeping it backed up means downtime can be minimized and key decision-making can continue even if such an attack has occurred.
Storing your board documents on a board management solution keeps them encrypted and safe even if the school website and file systems are compromised.
Moving to digital records with digital access
Avoiding physical copies of records and information that contain sensitive data, when possible, is good practice when it comes to data security.
Getting in the habit of using digital documents within a board management system ensures secure access, as well as a digital record of that use and access. Hard copies of sensitive information that are taken off premises, by contrast, can be unintentionally exposed and become untraceable once lost.
Securely storing confidential student and district information with the correct permissions for access is a critical part of keeping cyber safe.
Secure communication for board business
If you are using emails and attachments to communicate with school board members, then you are opening up possible avenues for cyber criminals to attack – from phishing to hacking, it’s just not a secure form of communication.
Using your board management software to receive and send communications keeps information secure and allows you to comply with necessary regulations in your state.
Store a copy of your district's cybersecurity standards with guidelines regarding email communication so that board members are up to date on best practice.
Prevention through ongoing training
Cybersecurity standards give guidelines for best practice that members of the district (board members, staff, administrators, students, etc.) can follow. However, regular cybersecurity training is equally vital to ensure that all members of the district community are fully aware of their role in being cyber-ready.
Training should cover the necessary response to attacks or threats. School board members should know how to respond to a suspected or confirmed cyberattack.
Store key training materials and updates on new threats in your board management software so that board members can keep themselves current.
Cyber threat identification and reduction is an important part of the school board's risk oversight duties. However, today, you can no longer count on the fact that you will be able to prevent a cyberattack. How the district chooses to respond in the immediate hours following a cyber breach often determines the severity of the crisis and its long-term effects.
Contact details for all relevant individuals or agencies that need to be brought in following an attack should be available to all district staff and board members through pertinent training materials. They should also be accessible at any time. The faster incidents are reported, the sooner the outcomes of the attack can be mitigated.
Board technology helps promote strong cybersecurity practices
Managing cyber risk for your school district can feel like an overwhelming responsibility, but with the right technology tools, it can be simplified and streamlined. Cybersecurity best practices, ongoing training and technology can be integrated to keep your board members up to date and your district business cybersecure.
Leveraging board management software like Diligent Community helps school boards mitigate the risks associated with other unsecure platforms. The right security features, along with daily backups, support and promote practices that protect sensitive information while providing the school board with a seamless, streamlined tool to share and access pertinent district information.