Online learning hasn’t only made students more susceptible to cyber threats, but entire school districts as well. Brandon Wales, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, is concerned that “schools aren’t doing enough to protect their networks.” He pressed school districts to take advantage of federal funds that would protect them from cybersecurity threats.
Only a fraction of school districts are currently using this free service offered by the federal government. According to Wales, “Only 2,000 of the 13,000 U.S. school districts have signed up for free membership in the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center, which offers government organizations, including school systems, network vulnerability assessment, cyberthreat alerts and other related services. Only about 120 schools are using a no-cost federal service called “malicious domain blocking,” which helps prevent IT systems from connecting to harmful web domains.”
While there has always been concern over the security of school and district level networks, it’s obviously been heightened during the pandemic. Several school districts across the country have dealt with academic interruptions because of cybersecurity attacks. In Hartford, Connecticut, the school year was delayed due to a cyberattack that crashed their network, including the school’s transportation system. The district was also forced to reset all devices that were connected at the time, causing a massive setback in their online learning platform.
Schools are in a high-risk category for ransomware attacks, and the consequences are far reaching due to remote learning. School districts would be wise to make use of the resources that are available in order to protect their networks, as well as their students.