What Are the Impacts of Poor Cybersecurity?
Before diving into the benefits of SD-WAN security for schools, it’s important to recognize the wide-ranging impact of weak cybersecurity across K–12 environments. Without appropriate cybersecurity measures, students’ extensive personal data can be lost or stolen as part of an attack. Remote learning environments historically have been compromised to varying degrees. These mishaps can have far-reaching effects on students, staff and administrators.
Amy McLaughlin, project director for the cybersecurity and Smart Education Networks by Design (SEND) initiatives at CoSN, points to three main areas of concern for schools. She says schools need to be particularly conscious of endpoint management, targeted attacks and unmanaged software.
Endpoint management: As the sheer number of devices and access points in use across school networks increases, effective endpoint management is essential to mitigate security risk. “Because devices are running on home networks and wireless hotspots, schools can’t easily get to these devices, even though active maintenance and monitoring is critical,” says McLaughlin.
Targeted attacks: Email-based attacks remain one of the most common threat vectors, McLaughlin says, adding that “instructors and students are now being targeted with phishing attacks to expose their devices, and in turn more of the technology stack.” In effect, successful hooks from phishing efforts let hackers get their foot in digital door and once inside school networks, bad actors can move laterally to compromise key services or exfiltrate valuable data.
Unmanaged software: McLaughlin also highlights the increasing risk of unmanaged software on school networks from teachers and students installing software that hasn’t been approved for use on their devices. In the context of remote learning, this approach isn’t malicious. “People are often just trying to solve a problem,” McLaughlin says, “but unmanaged software and unapproved web apps aren’t necessarily safe or secure.”