With the education industry going virtual with online sessions and learning on the web; the incidence of cyber attacks has been massive. The EdTech industry amounted to 56% of those paying a ransom for data recovery. It is discovered that the data recovery cost dropped from USD 1.42 million to about USD 1 million in 2023 (as per Cyberexpress.com). There are several other ransomware attacks being reported in the education sector by Cyberexpress.com.
- 37% of ransomware attacks on higher education were due to compromised credentials and 40% were due to vulnerability exploitation
- A surge in data encryption was witnessed from 72% to 81% from 2022 to 2023
- 27% of lower education reported data being stolen after encryption and around 35% of higher education was destroyed due to data exfiltration after encryption
- All higher education and 99% of lower education succeeded in retrieving their data back.
Aren’t these statistics alarming when looking at the growing applications of Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Multiverse in the field of education worldwide? The reasons for data exploitation were recorded t be phishing emails, exploited vulnerabilities, and compromised credentials. The expanse of cyberattacks in the education industry is expanding at an astounding rate. The Journal mentions SonicWall’s threat researchers’ report showcasing 3.7 trillion overall intrusion attempts globally, a 21% increase over the period of the first six months of 2023.
The data suggests that threat actors are targeting the education sector at an unprecedented rate, more than any other recorded vertical. Malware is increasingly being carried out by encrypted means as the K-12, higher education, and related education technology companies saw a four-digit spike in malware over HTTP (SonicWall reports). Crypto-jacking is rising exponentially, as threat actors seem to be opting for less-threatening ways to earn revenue from their cybercrimes.
Let us understand some of the critical Cyber threats to the EdTech Industry:
- Data Breaches: The sensitive data regarding students, teachers, staff, and parents is at risk of being exploited by cybercriminals. They get easy access to their contact information, academic and health records, financial information, social security numbers, etc. This is called a data breach.
- Denial of Service Attacks: DoS attacks attempt to shun a network, leaving it unusable to a legitimate user base. These attacks ruin the reputation of the educational institution by disrupting remote learning sessions.
- Phishing: Did you know over 90% of all cyberattacks begin with phishing emails? These are the fake emails and messages that the attackers send to gain personal or confidential information from the users.
- Ransomware Attacks: Cybercriminals exploit the information or critical files to make outrageous financial demands as ransom.
- Installing Malware: This is the infliction of malicious software designed to infect or damage the system and networks, in the form of attachments in phishing emails or viruses inside digital libraries.
- Zoombombing: It is the process that involves online video conferencing platforms that are interrupted by intruders. They become a hindrance in the virtual classrooms by exposing unwanted and harmful media during the ongoing session.
Having talked about the types and ways cyber thieves are ruining the education platform, it is essential to counter them with the most targeted solutions. Let us dig deep into the ways to secure the education sector from hackers and malicious attacks from Cybercriminals.
- Strengthen Security Governance: School networks must block access to all potentially risky sites and app downloads of the students must also be monitored and restricted.
- Heighten Access Control: Qualitatively restricted access shall prevent individuals from unauthorized information, and limits attackers’ activities.
- Install Anti-Malware Software: Invest in firewalls, intrusion detection, and virus and malware protection systems in order to protect the network from various attacks, viruses, spyware, ransomware, etc.
- Update Systems Regularly: Always make sure that your browsers, applications, and operating systems are running the latest version to avoid any future cyberattacks.
- Secure Data Backups: It is recommended to have multiple backup plans as per the sensitivity of your data. Cloud backups and external data storage shall come in handy.
- Structure an Incidence Response Plan: A detailed documented plan will help teams and cybersecurity professionals in identifying what needs to be done in order to expedite the recovery plan in an emergency.
- Conduct Training: Engaging school students and staff in awareness programs and fostering is the way ahead. Empowering young minds right from the school years is a great way to make an informed society.
As the US Bureau for Labor Statistics expects the demand to surge by nearly 35% by 2031; with over 19,500 job openings every year. This makes cybersecurity a quick career choice to dive in. Empowering the young talent at school with the right cyber-protective measures and credible cybersecurity education via quality cybersecurity certifications for k-12 is the easiest way to get our education systems secure in earnest; furthermore, serving the greater good of the massively global economy ahead.