How to Build a Cybersecurity Culture in Education

With the global shift to remote learning and working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, people are relying on technology more than ever. These technological connections have been invaluable, but with this drastic reliance, cybersecurity has become a primary concern. Hacks, breaches, scams, phishing emails, and theft are among the top cybersecurity issues to look out for. From this digital conflict, a cybersecurity culture in education must arise.

What Is a Cybersecurity Culture?

Most schools maintained a strong focus on cybersecurity before COVID-19 arrived. However, with the pandemic, various cybersecurity attacks have increased, raising issues for faculty, staff, students and parents. Now, the solution is to build a cybersecurity culture in education at all levels.

What exactly is a cybersecurity culture, though?

It’s a collective focus on cybersecurity throughout the school where everyone works together to recognize, prevent and stop attacks of all kinds. This culture will involve things as simple as using strong passwords and things a little more in-depth, like understanding the signs of breaches. Since schools have so many people learning and working within them, remote or in-person, a cybersecurity culture is a must.

The best practices involve training and education, management, using the right systems and consistently continuing the conversation around cybersecurity. In a sense, the goal of a cybersecurity culture is to normalize these topics and fields so that they become second nature to everyone in education.

To get to that point, each educational institution must take the right steps for integration and training.

Building a Cybersecurity Culture

The following steps are critical for creating a cybersecurity culture in education. With them, everyone in the school will understand the importance of protecting information and data in the cyber world.

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cybersecurity culture in education

1. Reevaluate

The first step is to take a step back. The administration and any tech workers will need to look at the bigger picture. Where is the school now? How vulnerable are the school’s data and student and faculty information? Without the right privacy protocols, cybercriminals can easily steal information, which can ultimately lead to complicated legal issues.

The key to this step is to start small. Compare the school’s cybersecurity protection to that of other institutions. What are they doing that the school needs? Then, once administrators have an idea of the direction they need to head in, they can get audits and risk assessments.

2. Create a Plan

From the information in the reevaluation step, a plan can then begin to develop. It’s critical here that administrators and tech experts speak with all departments about their needs. What has remote learning changed? What are the new needs that come with virtual classrooms?

Some things to consider include unsecure networks, malware and ransomware attacks and phishing scams. These issues will pop up and be primary areas of concern. Solutions may include virtual private networks (VPNs) and a strong IT infrastructure.

3. Build an IT Team

If a school doesn’t already have an IT team, it’s time to create the budget for one. If they do, it’s time to expand the team. Since COVID-19 has increased risks and threats, the IT team will be critical to address all concerns, whether students are remote or not.

The IT team can work with all forms of tech to look for hacks, malware and any other viruses. They should install antivirus software and strong firewalls to protect the school’s networks. They will also need to provide general tech support for students as they learn from home. Communication is always essential.

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cybersecurity culture in education

4. Awareness Training

When it comes to people who perhaps don’t have the same awareness as professional tech experts, education is essential. When everyone is more aware of the threats they and the school face, they can recognize signs earlier.

For instance, phishing scams are often fake emails that come across as official, from someone with authority. They may provide harmful links or ask for private information from individuals or from the school. If students and staff don’t recognize these as spam, they could cause a breach.

Providing resources for training, like quizzes, tutorials and practice will be invaluable. It’s a solidifying step for creating a cybersecurity culture in education, and it must be an ongoing process, always learning and adapting.

5. Adjust Over Time

Like all education, cybersecurity practices will change over time. Part of what makes a culture of any sort so critical is its evolution — and the cybersecurity evolution must happen together. Tech evolves every year, with new gadgets and networks always coming about. Cybercriminals adapt to those changes and get smarter, too.

This step involves schools reevaluating their status, getting audits and reassessing risks every so often. It’s what will keep the culture going and everyone in it safe.

Culture of a Learning Curve

A cybersecurity culture in education will take time to implement and for everyone to adapt to. There will be a learning curve, but so long as everyone maintains the right communication, the schools can remain safe, no matter how distant education becomes.

Shannon Flynn

Shannon Flynn is a technology writer and Managing Editor at ReHack.com. She's written for sites such as Finovate, Innovation & Tech Today, Smart City Hub, and more. Shannon aims to write articles that help businesses and organizations mitigate cybersecurity threats to keep at-risk individuals safe.