Elementary, middle and high schools have already faced a variety of cybersecurity challenges since the start of the pandemic, from Zoombombing to an increased risk of ransomware attacks. A huge factor in schools’ vulnerabilities is that they often lack the resources needed to secure their network and protect student data. But with remote learning continuing into the fall, focusing on cybersecurity is more important than ever. So, what are some of the main challenges facing K-12 schools and how can they be addressed? We take a look.

Third-Party Vendors Can Pose a Risk to Data

Remote learning has meant that schools have had to turn to third-party vendors to teach, including video chat software, lesson portals and digital message boards. Tools that are free can contain inappropriate advertising, or include user tracking, poor privacy controls or malware.

Schools can address this by making sure that school leaders’ decisions are guided by federal laws like the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) when choosing what technologies should be used. Making decisions about which tools are used should be a careful, conscious choice and schools should look for tools that minimize the amount of student data that is collected and sold.

Schools Can’t Afford the Same Cybersecurity Resources as Corporation

Schools differ from businesses when it comes to cybersecurity in that they usually don’t have a full-time employee to focus on cybersecurity. This leads to major gaps in a school’s cybersecurity strategy. With tight school budgets meaning that schools can’t always afford dedicated cybersecurity staff, schools have to find other ways to bolster their cybersecurity strategy. That means building a culture of data protection in the school by raising awareness among staff and students about cybersecurity issues and providing regular trainings for everyone on security best practices. For instance, people may be using simple passwords or may not know how to recognize phishing emails. Simple, ongoing trainings can go a long way in protecting school systems and student data.

Schools Need a Way to Communicate If There is a Breach

With schools now relying on online communications from video chat to digital blackboards to messaging for classes and assignments, a cyberattack can shut down learning in schools indefinitely. If that happens, schools should have an alternative network to communicate with students, teachers, and other key members of the community to keep them informed and ensure that key lessons can continue while systems are being restored.

With remote learning continuing into the fall, preparing to build a strong cybersecurity strategy can be challenging for any school. Picking the right tools can make a big difference. When it comes to deciding on tools for a strong cybersecurity strategy, opt for tools that have been verified by an independent-third party, and meet federal guidelines by collecting only data that is absolutely necessary—and storing it securely. Vaporstream makes it easy for staff, students and parents to communicate about sensitive information without the risk of breach. We also provide an alternative network for communications should an incident occur. Learn more about Vaporstream’s security features – and its third-party verification – from mobile app security experts NowSecure.