Educational targets hit by rising cyberattacks in 2021

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Educational institutions are on track for a record year of ransomware attacks in 2021, with K-12 schools as the main targets. While contributing to better educational outcomes, successful one-device-per-student and learning-from-anywhere programs have expanded the attack surface for cyber threats of various kinds.

Bad actors prioritize elementary schools because they are underfunded when it comes to staffing and cybersecurity systems, and administrators are often impatient to put attacks behind them and resume classes.

According to Sophos’ “The State of Ransomware in Education 2021”, the typical educational institution pays an average ransom of $ 112,435 to get data and networks back up and running. Additionally, criminals encrypt the personal identities and financial data of students, parents, and administrators as part of ransomware attacks, and sometimes threaten to publicly release such data to further pressure victims to pay the ransom.

Crucial information on cyber threats to education is also obtained through Absolute Software. “Endpoint Risk Report 22/21 – Education Edition” which found that the total number of devices deployed in K-12 environments increased 74% from 2019 to 2020.

Absolute’s research is noteworthy because it quantifies how the disruption caused by digital learning, including the adoption of new technologies, opened up new attack vectors for bad actors and cybercriminals.

Another fascinating aspect of the study is how school district IT and cybersecurity teams are being pushed in multiple directions as they strive to secure the identities of their students, teachers, and administrators. Digital learning needs self-healing endpoints to scale globally, and protect edge-based endpoints it’s just the first step.

Secure Terminals Save School Networks

The Absolute study makes it clear that one device per student strategies are challenging for IT teams.

Federal, state and local government funding of learn-from-anywhere programs has worked, according to the school district CIOs VentureBeat spoke to. The funds were immediately allocated to at-risk children who did not have access to the internet or devices at home to stay connected to their schools.

In many cases, Google’s Chromebooks have dominated the adoption of new devices. CIOs told VentureBeat that the ability to block selective Chromebooks that are endpoints at risk is a must-have feature as the online student population grows.

Meanwhile, devices of all kinds can challenge administrators, especially if the devices are overloaded with applications. Overloading your endpoints with too much software makes them less secure.

A typical school endpoint device has 5.4 security controls per device, including VPN, antivirus, and antimalware, compared to 11.7 security applications per device on a typical corporate endpoint device. School and enterprise endpoint devices are already rife with conflict and decay from software clients leaving endpoints vulnerable. Conflicting endpoints make IT management and audits particularly challenging.

Beyond antivirus applications

Each new application deployed to an endpoint device increases the chances that it will be a victim of cyber threats. In short, endpoints continue to be weakened by too many conflicting software agents, ineffective antivirus applications, and operating system patches that are long out of date.

The Absolute study found that only 53% of antivirus applications work effectively today, and nearly a third of the educational devices studied contained sensitive data. Almost 50% contain social security data and 39% contain protected health information.

Above: Despite the high installation rates of endpoint management in educational environments, devices continue to be the victims of cyberattacks by criminals. Source: Absolute Software.

Image Credit: Absolute

Absolute report shows success of on-the-go learning strategies and other initiatives dominating IT and cybersecurity spending for learning institutions depends on achieving complete visibility and control of all student and staff devices . The Absolute study quantifies how geographically distributed distance learning is and how endpoint devices are especially vulnerable when outside the school network.

Truly self-healing endpoints they are the solution to this challenge. The most reliable, scalable, and persistent self-healing endpoints provide continuous visibility, control, and intelligence across devices, data, and applications.

Absolute’s approach of being embedded in the firmware of more than 500 million Windows devices and extending to Chrome OS and iOS has proven itself in educational institutions around the world.

“In this new digital reality, the endpoint is now the edge and the primary attack surface for cybercriminals is in the hands of students and staff,” Absolute Software President and CEO Christy Wyatt told VentureBeat. “The ability to view, manage, and protect all endpoint devices, as well as the data and applications on those devices, is critical to ensuring that students and staff remain safe, connected, and productive no matter where the work is taking place. physical learning, “he said. continued.

Absolute’s study accurately captures the complexity and urgency of Challenges for IT and cybersecurity teams to ensure that learning-from-anywhere initiatives can continue to serve students, teachers, and administrators. Additionally, the CIOs of the school districts VentureBeat spoke to say that the unified endpoint management platforms must deliver on the promise of greater visibility and control because IT teams will need to conduct audits as part of next year’s budget process.

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