I am currently working as a Paraprofessional for the Board of Education in the city of New York, and I am looking to change my career to cyber security. I would like to put little bit more emphasis on how cybersecurity can protect our children at home and in our schools who are our future leaders. The increase in occurrences of data breaches in our health care and educational institutions has had a direct impact on my family and my kids. Our daughter’s school informed us in May 2022 that student data had been compromised, including enrollment information, such as schools attended, dates of attendance, grade levels, graduation dates, assigned teachers, and guidance counselors, as well as scholar demographic information, and academic information.
My choice to undertake this important career move was influenced by the fact that I am a teacher. I feel that society as a whole, my family, friends, and especially the students who are just starting their lives are all so vulnerable to these cyber attacks that sometimes one feels completely helpless to stop them. I will do my best to make the most of this opportunity to learn about cyber security in order to safeguard our future academics and leaders. I will also take advantage of this chance to further my studies and attempt to earn a Master’s degree in the field of cyber security.
The basic principles of cybersecurity are needed as a constant daily knowledge for school staff and students alike. Cybersecurity is becoming important for schools due to the ever-increasing number of risks, the typology of which is becoming more extensive and diverse. As a rule, the tasks of cybercriminals include stealing private information for its use with mercenary intentions. Every school that does not have some basic online crime prevention parameters in place is exposed to the possibility of hacking and data leakage with unpredictable results. Information stolen by criminals can be used to break into other information databases in order to withdraw money. Another way to use confidential data is blackmail, when representatives of an organization or students and their parents are blackmailed with sensitive information for financial gain.
Potentially, private fee-paying schools may contain the payment information of the parents of students, their bank account addresses. Also, access to information may imply the possibility of using it to manipulate data, the distortion of which also pursues a thirst for profit. Distortion of data can not only deprive the money of their real owners, but also wreak havoc in the school system by seriously sabotaging its work. That is why a cybersecurity specialist is needed in any institution, and they must give basic instructions for protecting themselves on the Internet to students, their parents, and school staff. At the same time, it is necessary to protect not only school general equipment, but also personal devices of students, especially considering that they must be integrated into school educational Web 2.0 resources.
Types of Cybercriminals
Cybercriminals who steal or otherwise exploit other people’s information can be from different demographic groups. Cyber intruders range from online criminals and scammers who aim to profit from any potential internet scam to expert hackers. They differ from ordinary online criminals in their knowledge of program codes that allow them to extract information without deceiving the user, but by hacking the computer system itself. A more local variant of information leakage is also possible, since a school, like any organization, may have a spy insider who steals and redirects confidential information into unscrupulous hands.
Undoubtedly installation of various spyware and unfair use of other people’s information can occur due to the assistance of unsuspecting users. Often, school employees or students themselves can be extremely careless in entering personal data on shared devices, for example, they can save passwords in browsers and personal accounts. This information is thus free to access, and the attacker gets the opportunity to take over the account, personal data, and access to the correspondence of the unlucky user. Finally, among the perpetrators of cyberattacks and data leaks, school students themselves often turn out to be motivated by testing their computer programming skills in extreme conditions. Cybercrime is the result of a combination of these factors, where cybersecurity breaches, employee negligence, and malicious hackers cause widespread disruption to the data systems of individual schools.
Risk management is probably the best way to test the robustness of defense systems against hacker attacks. Critical infrastructure, which includes school cybersecurity, is based on risk management with specific frameworks. Monitoring the changing situation in cyberspace is the basis of the observational process and allows you to identify new risks, for example, those associated with new ways of information regulation. The search for initial internal weaknesses in the existing information system is also very important. For example, the absence of a two-factor authentication parameter in the system can already be characterized as a serious assumption of a cyber threat. The cybersecurity professional must also keep track of all risks associated with software deliveries and software updates, as information technology vulnerabilities can be the most technically problematic to fix. As the most suitable manual for risk management, the publication of the National Institute of Standards, which provides regulatory information for government systems, is valuable (NIST, n.d.). These standards can be applied to the work of any organization, since they include the identification of risks, vulnerabilities and possible consequences with an assessment of damage.
Risk management is also an element of this framework, with the answer following for each individual issue. To mitigate risks, the most successful practices are considered to be the introduction of such restrictions as firewalls, special data encryptors, as well as the installation of special software that monitors the threat of viruses, Trojans, and phishing links. Do not underestimate the constant updating of software and the complete rejection of the use of pirated software. In order to further work on increasing the information awareness of school staff and students, it is recommended to use special training programs in a playful way that reinforce cybersecurity skills. Finally, a regular backup of all valuable data and their careful storage can help to avoid, if not leakage, then at least the loss of valuable information.
Assessment Frameworks and Monitoring
The identification of risks regarding users’ confidential information is also a concern in other security management frameworks. In particular, the ISO 27001 standard requires that risk management include evaluation with data that is both accurate and valuable and yet comparable (Naden, 2020). Risks should always be assessed within the chosen system and be owned by specific owners. Once a particular problem has been resolved, an assessment of the effectiveness of the chosen strategy is required to determine whether it meets the security requirements put forward by the organization. Then, authorization of the updated system is required, that is, its transfer for evaluation to a senior specialist in the instance, who will help approve its effectiveness. One should not forget about the last controlling stage, that is, monitoring, aimed at maintaining awareness of the previously existing problem and already approved strategies for solving it.
Cybersecurity monitoring after the implementation of a new technological solution is also important at the level of log monitoring, that is, searching for problematic encodings in databases. Thus, it becomes possible to track any anomalies in user functions and cut off potential external threats. Installing software that can handle large data sizes and turn it into interpretable information could make things easier for the IT professional and cybersecurity manager. Changes such as failed login attempts, password changes, logging in with an old login from a new device, and any external attacks like mallware spam or attacks on the server can be logged through the monitoring log. All of them can mean one or another danger for a student or any other user in the general network, because through this type of activity, one can probe the system and find out its principles of operation.
In turn, this probing may allow the attacking system to choose the most flexible strategies for bypassing locks and firewalls in order to deliver malware. These can be both fake applications with Trojans or viruses, and phishing links that collect personal or hidden information about the user, such as passwords. Unwittingly, the user may become a victim of fraud by accidentally installing an unverified pseudo-application that turned out to be a virus agent. Log monitoring is able to prevent all these dangers by exposing the entire computer system to visibility and automatically distributing this detected data. IT staff at the school, led by the chief of cybersecurity, can analyze this data and figure out ways to counter possible attempts to undermine the security of the school’s computer systems.
Work with Scholars and Employees
The system being built should be prepared not only in the programming department, but also affect each employee of the organization, making them involved defenders of their own and corporate information security. Interaction with employees is important for the reason that it is their private responsibility that guarantees accuracy in the future use of databases. Each employee, for example, must learn how to choose complex passwords for their confidential information. The ability to create complex and hard-to-guess passwords is a way that does not require financial influence to store information with sufficient efficiency (NSCS, 2022). Employees and students should be strongly encouraged during briefings or workshops not only to create complex passwords, but also to use different passwords for each of their accounts on multiple Internet resources or social networks. Information leakage is likely on each of the resources used by a person, and therefore it is necessary to prevent the possibility of mass opening of personal accounts and large-scale data leakage on the domino principle.
Two-factor authentication, that is, an inseparable link-confirmation of a password through two devices, for example, through a computer and a mobile phone, also neutralizes the risk of stealing private information. Double identity verification can also increase its security by using a reliable legally purchased password manager, a special offer that organizes all passwords in quick access. It is necessary to write down passwords in order to avoid accidental loss of access to information, and all employees and students must be clearly warned about this. Saving personal data on a shared device is a potentially dangerous action, so it is necessary to convey to people that logging out of your account for any longest time of absence is necessary as a rule, requiring the development of automatism. Thus, employees and students themselves, with proper instruction from a cybersecurity specialist, may be able to independently protect their data from the threat of hacking and leakage. However, we should also mention other ways to protect information that are already being implemented by professionals in the technical security environment.
Another important measure that could seriously contribute to maintaining a high level of cybersecurity in the school is the use of USB media specially issued by the school. Removable data drives in the school should not be used outside of it so that the risk of introducing malware from outside is excluded. The USB host must also be password-protected so that no third-party agent can place virus programs or malware on the media. Finally, the school should be prohibited from using media other than those given by the administration. As for programs programmed to start automatically, they must be turned off in advance.
Thus, the students themselves learn cybersecurity not only at school but also at home, carefully handling information carriers, mastering the basics of privacy in working with computers. The job of a cybersecurity specialist is to create a working digital ecosystem that would be able to assess its own state for risks, dangers, outcomes and ways to prevent problems. At the same time, the tightness of the system is ensured by its constant monitoring and detailed interpretation of the information array passed through computers. However, computer users themselves must follow the basic rules of digital security, and the task of a cybersecurity specialist is also to instill this knowledge in students and school staff.
Naden, C. (2020). Keeping an eye on information security. ISO.
NIST. (n.d.) Risk management. NIST.
NCSC. (2022). Cyber security for schools. National Cyber Security Centre.