How to Create a Cybersecurity Program at Your School

The education sector is at particular risk of cyber attacks or data breaches. Schools hold important and confidential information on their staff and students, making them an attractive target for hackers. 

However, there is a large skills gap in the education sector when it comes to cyber safety. Teaching cybersecurity in your institution can not only lower the risk of a hack but boost your students’ future work prospects by giving them vital hard skills. 

The Internet has mostly had a positive impact on how schools run. Many schools and universities, for example, use file sharing software to exchange homework and assignments between staff and students. 

The efficiency of software has made it difficult to imagine returning to the world of education without it. But, when a cybersecurity breach hits, you might come to wish you’d never started relying on such technological conveniences. 

Luckily, there are plenty of measures that can be taken to create a safer network for your staff, students, and their private data. 

Essentially, you can either build or buy your cybersecurity program – or combine both. 

Below, we’ll guide you through some simple yet effective tips for creating a cybersecurity program at your school.

students on computers working on their cybersecurity program

Building your program

Have an Incident Response Plan

No matter how securely you create your cyber-environment, you will never be 100% safe from attack. Your school should have a plan to protect data from ransomware attacks, general malware attacks, and distributed denial-of-service attacks. 

Your own tech-savvy staff and students could pose a threat, so make sure an incident response plan is made available to all. 

Included in your cybersecurity plan should be the contact information for the providers of your software. In a crisis, the last thing you want to be doing is searching for a helpline number.

Log Potential Insider Threats

This is not to say that a member of staff or a local authority with whom you share your data is in themselves a threat (though you never know), but that their access to your data can be hijacked. 

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Many universities, for example, partner with other universities for research projects or to share resources. Keeping a log of who has access to what data allows you to narrow down and identify the chink in your armor quickly should an attack strike. 

This information should also be stored in your incident response plan. A plan of action for each potential insider threat will mean that if your school’s network is ever infiltrated, you can ensure it’s for the least time possible. 

Educate Students

We’re living in an ever-expanding digital age, and with the rise of remote learning, how to be safe online is critical to students and staff. 

Building a cybersecurity culture in education is vital for ensuring the safety of children in particular.

A creative and more effective way of teaching students about cybersecurity would be by using the web. If you find an appropriate cheap web hosting platform, you can present an interactive workshop on how to stay safe online. 

As cybersecurity is such an important issue for young people, there are gamified cybersecurity educational resources out there for you to explore too.

It is especially worthwhile to educate your peers about GPS (Global Positioning System). Many devices nowadays will automatically have GPS activated. But why should you care?

With GPS activated, posting an update to your social media allows other users to learn your exact location.

Younger students could be particularly at risk of unknowingly announcing their location to the Internet. 

While GPS is instrumental for geo-targeting or online maps, it can also have much more sinister applications. Keep your students safe by encouraging them to keep their GPS switched off, especially in school. 

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Buying your program

Know Your Software and Hardware

Encryption is a key part of cybersecurity. When deciding which software to invest in for your school, consider how much importance the provider places on safety and security in their sales channel strategy.

Hardware can easily be damaged or destroyed. Make sure you often back up your network’s data and files to avoid losing vital information. A student won’t be too happy if their assignment is saved on the school network and disappears! (On that note, you should encourage students to save their work to the PC and on a USB stick or a cloud drive.)

Implement Firewalls and Filters

No matter how much you try to educate your peers on online safety – there is always the risk of someone making a mistake. And one mistake is all it takes to let a hacker in.

Buying antivirus software for your network will enable you to install firewalls, stopping enticing and realistic pop-ups from potentially reeling in your staff and students. Just one click could give a hacker all the access they need.

Over the years, phishing emails have arguably got more and more creative and disguised. A person who spends less time online than others could easily fall victim to opening that dodgy link. 

It is easiest to eliminate the threat at the root. Install filters in your network’s inboxes. A lot of email services now will include spam filtering by default, but not everything can always be caught. 

Your tech professionals should be up to date on the latest trends in phishing emails and know what sorts of email subjects or keywords to block from reaching inboxes.

If a dodgy email does pass through the net, alert all members of staff and students immediately.

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students on computers, working on their cyber security program

Partnering with a Cybint Bootcamp

At the end of the day, there is only so much you can do with your devices to stop a cybersecurity crisis at your school. You must educate your staff and students on online safety.

This is best done through education. 

Educating Staff and Students

You can’t teach your students about online safety effectively if their teachers aren’t equally educated! 

And if you want to do this quickly and thoroughly, there are plenty of accelerated and immersive workshops on cybersecurity for teachers, as well as students – such as the Cybint Cybersecurity Bootcamp

Bootcamps can be completed on a full or part-time basis to fit your schedule and are conducted by industry experts to provide up to 480 hours of skills-training that can be understood by beginners. 

Furthermore, with the rise of teleconference calls through VoIP phones, there is no excuse not to attend a virtual session. Indeed, Cybint maximizes its accessibility as a blended and flexible online platform filled with evergreen content. 

However, if you do use VoIP phones, you need to make VoIP encryption a part of your cybersecurity program too. Having a hacker listen in on your plans to prevent hacking would be the definition of ironic and far from ideal! 

One last thing…

Do your staff members still communicate with each other mainly via email? 

With all the options readily available to us now, team chat applications are the best solution for efficient communication amongst colleagues. 

The best team chat app for a workforce who handles confidential information about other people will be encrypted, just like the rest of your software should be.

With encrypted data, a detailed log of your programs, educated staff and students, and a sufficient response plan, your school should be readily prepared for any threat to its cybersecurity. 

Elea Andrea Almazora

Elea is the SEO Content Optimization manager for RingCentral, the leader in global enterprise communication and collaboration solutions on the cloud. She has more than a decade's worth of experience in on-page optimization, editorial production, and digital publishing. She spends her free time learning new things.