What Is Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and How Does It Work in Schools?
Data loss prevention refers to a set of strategies and technologies designed to protect sensitive data and prevent unauthorized access and disclosure of confidential information. This includes safeguarding student records, financial information, Social Security numbers, medical records and addresses.
Fadhil says DLP solutions allow school districts to see how data is moving and take action if its movement is not typical or does not adhere to the district’s policy.
“You’re protecting your crown jewels,” he says of the sensitive data that schools collect and retain.
Why Is DLP Important in K–12 Schools?
Scott Wofford, technical solutions architect at Cisco, emphasizes that DLP is crucial in K–12 schools to protect student privacy, ensure compliance with federal and state regulations, mitigate risk and prevent identity theft. The increasing rate at which malicious actors target K–12 school systems underscores the need for DLP to ensure data privacy, security and the integrity of sensitive information.
Wofford points out that secondary objectives should include educating staff and students on cybersecurity and the risks of data loss. By achieving these goals, K–12 institutions can create a culture of data and privacy awareness, he says.
Fadhil emphasizes the critical importance of cybersecurity in K–12 schools, especially in the wake of a significant increase in cyberattacks. The year 2020 marked a pivotal moment for K–12 institutions as cyberattacks became increasingly lucrative, with organized groups targeting school data and evolving their methods to include ransomware and extortion, Fadhil says.
School IT leaders faced significant challenges, including the need to rapidly adapt cybersecurity strategies, often with limited funding and expertise. These schools had traditionally focused their resources on academic achievements and student access to technology. However, the sudden shift to online learning and the growing attack surface, including cloud adoption, amplified the risks, he says.
Fadhil explains that K–12 schools are highly attractive targets for cyberattacks due to the nature of the data they possess. The age of students makes them prime targets for credit and identity fraud, as there is little credit history or track record to hinder such attempts. Additionally, the richness of the data — including personal identifiable information, health data and financial information — makes K–12 institutions appealing targets for bad actors.