The IT security threats lurking in the classroom

Highly vulnerable and the target of attacks – why the education sector needs the right technology and protection to stay cyber-safe

Technology plays a vital role in education in the UK today, both in terms of teaching students various subjects and imparting IT skills directly.

As such, educational institutions are highly connected environments with a number of devices so several students can learn at once.

This EdTech focus is only likely to increase too – a report commissioned by the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) found that ICT spending in education is on an upward trajectory.

It found that primary schools are projected to expand spending on ICT during 2018/19 by around £7m. For secondary schools, the forecast for 2018/19 is also more positive, with spending expanding by £9m.

While this is great news for the technology skills and learning of the next generation, it also poses additional questions on security.

While we may associate cyber threats, such as malware and phishing, with targeting large corporates, many schools are even more vulnerable to such attacks.
Last year, hackers took advantage of poorly secured systems at schools in the UK, resulting in stolen personal data, which was used to target parents with cyber threats such as fake invoices. At the time, the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association’s chief executive said that cyber-attacks have moved from being an “isolated incident” to a serious concern.

The education environment

There is something unique about the school setting when it comes to cybersecurity. While corporations have entire IT departments, complete with security specialists, no such luxury exists in the UK’s education system.

Various teachers are likely to be using the technology, with a certain teacher designated as the ‘IT leader’ for organisational purposes.

However, having a wide range of teachers using the same technology, and without the safety net of an IT security specialist, means that schools are highly vulnerable to security threats. For example, with phishing, where users are tricked into giving access to machines and devices, the risk of this is heightened when there is a cohort of non-tech savvy users on the same machines.

As evidenced by the attacks on schools last year, the combination of only having basic security measures, a lack of technology experts and large amounts of sensitive data mean schools are very much in the crosshairs of malicious users.
So what is the solution?

Education-specific’ technology

Not all technology is created equal when it comes to working in education and having the security capabilities needed to provide the necessary protection.
With this notion in mind, HP has developed it Education Edition range of products, including the HP Stream 11 Pro Education Edition and HP Chromebook x360 11 G1 EE Education Edition.

While the technology works perfectly for education, it also comes with the HP School Pack 2.5 – a set of digital tools and content designed for education.
That pack also focuses on security. With the HP School Pack 2.5, educators and administrators can protect student devices and data as they can remotely track, locate, and secure IT assets. They can also lock lost or stolen devices, and delete personal data from a single console.

The HP Stream 11 Pro Education Edition and HP Chromebook x360 11 G1 EE Education Edition are also made to be robust themselves and offer further security protection built-in.

Thinking outside the PC

There is a common misconception that security should only be focused on the actual operating machines, whether that is a PC or mobile device. While that is still a vital consideration, printers are also highly targeted.

The education sector handles sensitive information and this is often sent to printers, where malicious attackers look to intercept and gain access to it. However, it is not enough to assume that the security measure on PCs will be enough – printers need to be built security-ready too.

For example, the HP Colour LaserJet Enterprise M652dn is a printer designed with security at the forefront from inception. Its run-time intrusion detection continually monitors activity to detect and stop attacks, then automatically reboots.

Then there is the HP PageWide Enterprise Colour MFP 586dn, which regularly checks its operating code and repairs itself from attempted hacks. It is protected from boot up to shut down, and that is exactly what the education sector needs to stay secure.

Overall, educational institutions, especially schools, are highly vulnerable as they utilise a wide range of technology used by young students and managed by staff with limited technical expertise.

The solution lies in getting education-specific technology, which has robust, but easy-to-use, security measures to protect against malicious attacks.

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