Five worthy reads is a regular column on five noteworthy items we’ve discovered while researching trending and timeless topics. This week, we discuss the state of cybersecurity in the education sector. 

Making up more than 6 percent of the gross world product, the global education sector has been growing at a 4.5 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and is forecasted to be worth $10 trillion by 2030. As the education sector continues to grow, so does the rate of digitization in schools, colleges, and universities; more and more schools are implementing digital solutions to track student performance, schedule classes, monitor assignments, etc.

Educational institutions store immense amounts of highly sensitive information, like contact information, academic records, Social Security numbers, financial information, heath records, and more, which makes them lucrative targets for hackers. And with the majority of students using smart devices and mobile applications to keep track of coursework, student news, and events, there are plenty of opportunities for attackers to strike. To top it all off, many universities conduct government sponsored research, which may contain critical state information.

In a recent attack, parents’ financial records were stolen from an Australian school, and 61 percent of independent schools in the UK reported experiencing a cyberattack in the last five years. On top of this, schools are 10.6 times more likely to fall victim to a malware or phishing scam than banks.

As hackers continue to grow more skilled at stealing information, the education sector needs to step up its efforts to protect its highly sensitive systems and information. 

Let’s take a look at five interesting reads from around the web to understand the risks that modern day schools face, and learn about ways they can mitigate them.

  1. The education industry’s big push for better data security: When it comes to cybersecurity, the education sector ranks last out of 17 industries in the United States. Schools need to ramp up network security and implement regular patching routines if they hope to thwart the increasing number of attacks.

  2. Best Practices for Cybersecurity Are Simple and Keep Users in Mind: Basic security hygiene practices should form the building blocks of any institution’s security framework. Simple steps such as following password best practices, periodically reviewing security policies, and educating users about good security habits can go a long way in protecting educational institutions from breaches.

  3. Why must Education sector focus on Cyber security?: Bring your own device (BYOD), decentralized IT, and open networks are some of the challenges that the education sector faces when it comes to ensuring security. However, these can be addressed by implementing stringent access controls and investing in a robust security solution tailored to the institution’s needs.

  4. Getting Educated on Cyber Security in an Education Environment: Any information that can be exploited to attack an individual is worth protecting. However, it’s not just the IT team’s responsibility to secure educational institutions; school principals, directors, and staff have just as much to lose from a data breach.

  5. Education industry not making the grade for cybersecurity: As the education sector steadily moves towards increased digitization, schools will need to reassure various stakeholders that all sensitive information being stored is safe and constantly monitored.

Although the challenges that the education sector faces may seem overwhelming, there are plenty of ways educational institutions can effectively protect their networks. A proactive approach will help ensure that the immense amount of information that schools store remains safe. The need of the hour is strong access controls, authentication mechanisms, and constant monitoring of all the databases where information is stored.