How to safeguard against school cyber security breaches

Remember that bully in school who’d shake down students for their lunch money? Well, I’m here to tell you that with cyber threats, lunch money bullies are taking it to another level these days. But unlike the past, there are ways to hang onto your lunch money (and all your data) and protect against school against school cyber security breaches on your website and other data systems.

The threat of your school’s website getting hacked is real. This article offers information about a simple tool that your school can use to help guard it against potential security issues.

Is your school district website safe?

Having worked for eight years in the internet security world with Trust Guard, I’ve seen how the majority of companies that come to us seeking online protection are those that have already been hacked.

In fact, educational institutions that didn’t consider their websites vulnerable, like Harvard University, the University of Louisville, and the Indiana Department of Education have found out the hard way that hackers don’t play favorites. They hack into sites that are hackable. Period.

Lately, hackers have been focusing on disrupting several school websites. They have:

  • Manipulated Grades
  • Stolen Credit Card Information
  • Redirected Websites to Terrorist Sites
  • Stolen Identities
  • Stolen Lunch Money
  • Replaced Websites with Vulgar Messages

EdTechStrategies.com explains that hackers can completely lock down a school’s information technology assets while simultaneously attacking individuals who access the site like school staff, vendors, and students. Such hacks jeopardize the website user’s personal and financial information.

News reports document that school districts across the country – including Spring Lake Park Schools (MN), Bigfork Public Schools (MT), Horry County Schools (SC), Rhinebeck Central School District (NY), and Swedesboro-Woolwich School District (NJ) – have been victimized by ransomware attacks. Other educational entities like the West Ada School District (ID) have had denial of service attacks. Here’s a related article by Campus Suite’s Eric Fulkert on DDoS prevention.

Why keep your school website secure?

Stop and think for a moment about all of the investments that are made to create and maintain your school’s website.

~ Design and branding
~ Development
~ Shopping carts
~ Initial and consistent content
~ Email generators
~ Images and videos

I’m sure I’m forgetting some other investments, like paying for domain names and hosting. But the point is that you’ve put a lot of time, effort, and money into building your school’s website.

As school administrators, you see to it that campus buildings are safe from security threats. You take significant measures to maintain the reputation of having a school without bullies and delinquents. Doesn’t it make sense to also protect your website from online bullies and hackers? If your site isn’t protected, what’s stopping hackers from ruining all your hard work and exceptional reputation?

How to protect your school website

Data security standards like those provided by the payment card industry (PCI) have provided an online compliance baseline for security practices that also includes vulnerability scanning.

Frequent scanning of your school’s website for vulnerabilities that hackers use to sneak into your website is essential. An Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV) partner can help you identify ​over 76,000 ​vulnerabilities and offer detailed recommendations to keep your website safe while protecting your students, teachers, administrators, and other visitors personal information.​  

Your school cannot afford to get hacked. The potential damage and liability is too great to ignore. Frequent PCI compliant scans and regular malware scanning help protect your school and everyone that uses your website and POS credit card readers. Once your website is safe, you can display a trust seal, which instantly informs students, parents, teachers and other online visitors that their information is safe. This builds trust and confidence.  

In conclusion, if you’re not running consistent security scans, your school’s website may not be safe. In fact, 86% of the companies that Trust Guard services fail their first PCI compliant security scan.

Protect your investment, reputation, students, teachers, and others by scanning your school’s website today.

Related articles you might like:
School Cyber Security and Your District: Are You Prepared?
5 Tools to Protect Your School from DDoS Attacks
How to Prevent Hacked School Websites

 

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Luke Brandley is CMO of Trust Guard, a company that provides cyber-security and PCI compliance testing and recommendations to help keep school websites safe; protecting students’, teachers’, administrators’, and other visitors’ personal information.​ Reach him at lukeb@trustguard.com

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