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How Public K-12s Can Bolster Their Cyber Defenses

February 20, 2021 2 min read
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Many public K-12s struggle to defend themselves against the barrage of cybersecurity threats they face on a daily basis. Not only are these challenges constantly evolving, but most educational institutions are not equipped with the resources, staff, and expertise they need to manage cybersecurity risk.

With the onset of COVID-19 and the shift to virtual learning, public K-12s have exponentially more devices connecting to their networks that are not controlled by the district. This presents new ways for cyber-attacks, like ransomware, to impact their operations, students, and staff. Luckily, there are resources available to public K-12s to help defend against such threats. All public K-12s can become members of the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center® (MS-ISAC®). The MS-ISAC is the focal point for cyber threat prevention, protection, response, and recovery for the nation’s state, local, territorial, and tribal governments.

3 Common Cyber Threat Actors Targeting K-12s

Cybercriminals.
Cybercriminals target education entities to make money by stealing and selling sensitive data, installing cryptocurrency miners, encrypting data and holding the key for ransom (ransomware), amongst other nefarious activities.

Hacktavists.
Hacktavists are politically, socially, or ideologically motivated and target victims for publicity or to effect change. A typical hacktivist attack on an educational institution is defacing vulnerable websites with messages related to the hacktivist’s cause.

Insiders.
Insiders are current or former employees, contractors, or other partners who have access to an organization’s networks, systems, or data. Malicious insiders intentionally misuse their network access to negatively affect the organization, while unwitting insiders unintentionally cause harm through their actions, such as clicking on a phishing email link.

Common K-12 Cyber-Attacks

Both large and small school districts reported ransomware attacks.

The No-cost Cybersecurity Solution for Public K-12s

When one school faces an attack, it is likely that others will face the same type of attack. By joining the MS-ISAC, public K-12s become part of a community of more than 2,000 schools and districts who share cybersecurity information to improve their readiness against common threats. Membership also gives public K-12s access to Malicious Domain Blocking and Reporting (MDBR) at no-cost. MDBR technology promises to solve most of the above cybersecurity threats facing educational institutions today. MDBR technology prevents IT systems from connecting to harmful web domains, helping limit infections related to known malware, ransomware, phishing, and other cyber threats.

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