Schools are increasingly facing cyber threats that are becoming more and more sophisticated. Cybersecurity threats can be devastating, as they can result in the loss of sensitive data, cause financial losses, and disrupt school operations. One primary way in which a cyber attacker can gain access to a school system is through the use of malware. Malware is a malicious software designed to harm a computer or network.
One of the most common ways malware enters a school network is when a member of staff or student has unknowingly downloads a malware. In most cases they have either visited a website that is compromised, or have been tricked throuch a technique called social engineering, to download an infected attachment.
In many cases in schools the social engineering is trick is deployed via email - this is spear phishing. Spear phishing attacks typically involve sending an email or message that appears to be from a legitimate source, such as a school, education association, or colleague. The email may contain a link or attachment that, when clicked, will download the malware onto the device. In many cases, cyber attackers will target school-owned email accounts, which they have compromised, and send emails containing malware to staff and students within the school.
Once the malware has infected a device, it will become active and start scanning the school network for other devices and systems that may be vulnerable. Malware can detect devices with missing security vulnerabilities, default passwords that have not been changed, or systems that are badly configured. The malware then reports this information to its master, who is typically a human hacker.
The human hacker takes over from the malware and seeks to escalate their access through the school systems until they can deploy ransomware. Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts data and systems, making them inaccessible until a ransom is paid. Alternatively, the attacker may threaten to publish sensitive data that they have found during their attack.
To prevent cyber attackers from gaining access to a school system, it is essential to take proactive measures to protect the network. Staff and students must be educated about cybersecurity and how to recognise potential threats. Schools should ensure that devices have up-to-date anti-virus protection and that all software is patched regularly.
In addition, schools must ensure that default passwords are changed, implement multi-factor authentication on most systems, that only necessary firewall services and ports are open, and that network segmentation is implemented to prevent attackers from moving laterally across the network.
Furthermore, schools should consider investing in advanced cybersecurity solutions that can detect and block potential threats. These solutions include security and systems audits, cyber vulnerability assessments, next-generation firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and security information and event management (SIEM) systems.
Lastly, investing in practical professional development for the school IT team can help them understand the technical and operational changes required to protect the school system. The 9ine Tech Academy is one such training program that can help IT teams learn new skills and knowledge about cybersecurity.
In conclusion, schools must take cybersecurity threats seriously and implement measures to protect their network from malware and other cyber attacks. By following the proactive steps highlighted in this article, schools can prevent the most common methods cyber attackers use to gain access to sensitive data and systems.