Opinion Piece | March 2020
Cybersecurity is a genuine threat that schools must take seriously
LONDON, 26th March - With the Coronavirus forcing more and more people online, as they seek to continue their work and their studies remotely, there is one topic that should be top of mind for all schools and educators – cyber security.
The importance of cybersecurity is often massively underestimated – even in schools. Yet according to the London Grid for Learning (LGfL), an astounding four out of five schools in the United Kingdom have suffered a security incident. And the impact of those cyber security attacks on schools can be huge.
For starters, it can disrupt services and affect the day-to-day operation of a school. NCSC even found that nearly all schools (97%) believed that losing access to network-connected IT services would cause considerable disruption – which is a real possibility in the wake of a breach.
Cyber-attacks also waste precious resources, such as teachers’ time and disrupt classroom learning. But even more worryingly, when the sheer amount of sensitive data that schools hold is accessed during a breach, it raises a huge cause for concern. In the most severe cases, schools would have to be shut down - costing many thousands of pounds.
How the problem starts
This problem is made worse because of the enormous skills and capabilities gap that most schools have when it comes to cyber security. Many headteachers, governors or even network managers are not qualified to handle cyber-attacks, concerted cyber threats, or even understand the right approach to prevent them in the first place.
This results in a lack of understanding and many default to the, often basic, IT systems they know from their home lives. Yet 92% of schools would welcome more cyber-security awareness training for staff to help protect themselves.
To add to this, far too many schools today are relying on consumer grade networks and filtering software as their first line of cybersecurity defense. The LGFL also revealed that fewer than half of schools (49%) were confident that they were adequately prepared in the event of a cyber-attack.
If schools are to ensure they are doing their upmost to prevent cyber-attacks that clearly cause havoc, they must first implement the right strategy. A good place to start would be to implement networking technology that is designed specifically for the challenges faced by educational establishments. Systems that have bank-level security to stop DDoS and other cyber-attacks.
Ignorance is not bliss
Cybersecurity is what safeguarding children in the 21st century looks like; it’s as important as the physical security at the school gates or in the classroom.
So as data becomes more and more valuable to criminals, cyber attacks on schools will only rise. It’s time that schools take control of their IT systems and data by making this challenge a key priority and area for change. Whether it’s a nursery, primary and secondary school, academy or university, having a poor cyber security approach will make a breach inevitable.
Cybersecurity needs to become a core part of the running of every school. It must be part of a clear IT strategy with measures – from software to training of staff and students a core part of everyday life. While cybersecurity may once have been an afterthought, the changes we’ve witnessed in the wake of the pandemic – with teachers forced to work remotely – should mean all schools reassess the importance of implementing a robust security framework for their IT estate.
At the end of the day, it will be technology that keeps data secure, reassures parents and enables teachers to focus on teaching. All of this enhances the learning experience, improves teacher and pupil satisfaction, and saves schools precious time and money.
About RM Education
RM Education helps schools save time, save money and improve the impact of technology on teaching and learning. It is a market -leading supplier of software and services working in partnership with thousands of schools to improve outcomes for all learners. rm.com/education
About RM plc
RM Education is part of the listed company RM plc – the £221m turnover British business, with c. 1,936 employees globally, established in 1973, specialising in providing information technology products and services to educational organisations and establishments. Its key market is UK education including schools, colleges, universities, government education departments and educational agencies. rm.com
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