Three Ways to Protect Student Data in the Digital Age

Starting at the age of five and into early adulthood, students become the responsibility of educational institutions. It’s the school’s responsibility to keep students safe, meet their educational needs and foster future success. However, in the digital age, schools and universities are faced with another responsibility: protecting student data. Educational institutes are now the home of educational records, health records, personal and parental data, and social security numbers. These records contain confidential information that hackers can exploit—oftentimes leading to serious consequences. Here are three ways that educational institutions can safeguard student data.

1. Teach Cybersecurity

Every student is taught math, but every student should be taught cybersecurity too. Students themselves are one of the biggest threats to their own data. It is important that not only students, but also staff, know how to comply with your facility’s cybersecurity practices. Students should be able to identify social engineering or phishing and know whether a link is malicious. They should also be able to create strong passwords and be smart about what they are putting online.

At the core of it, Students should be taught:

  • the importance of the data stored on your network
  • why they need to protect this data
  • how to follow the cybersecurity practices established

2. Know the Network

Following the turn of the century, many institutions converted their physical data into digital data. To make it easy to process and manage, they designed and implemented network architectures that often involved cloud setup and/or on-prem servers. While this had the benefits of providing computing, data storage, and easier management, it also created vulnerabilities. Now, if even a single resource becomes compromised with something such as ransomware or other malware, it has the potential to bring down your entire network.

To combat this, it is important for educational institutions to understand their network, as well as who the data is available to, where it is kept, and where the data is most vulnerable. Knowing this allows you to shelter the school’s data, but also allows for preemptive isolation of infected network segments in the event of a security incident.

3. Get Some Help

The first two points, while important, are not enough to prevent breaches by themselves. Educational institutions must also monitor their network’s endpoints. The challenge is that a small IT team may not have the resources and time to investigate all alerts. Endpoint activity is overwhelming—and in a flood of notifications, it is difficult to identify what is a false positive and what is a potential threat. That is where Managed Detection and Response (MDR) Services come into play. Critical Start’s MDR services leverage SOC integrations and expertise with industry leading EDR, SIEM and XDR technologies to quickly detect the right threats, respond with the right actions, and adapt to your business.

Critical Start’s SOC uses our platform ZTAP™ to monitor institutions’ endpoints. Our SOC can quickly resolve the majority of false positives and identify early indications of malware. Your team can view every alert directly in ZTAP or through our MobileSOC® Android/iOS app. Then, you can take necessary actions to resolve potentially threatening alerts, or our SOC can act on your behalf. Partnering with an MDR provider like Critical Start simplifies breach prevention and allows your IT team to focus on what really matters: your students.

Education is a highly targeted industry due to the nature of the data stored on their networks. The number of schools targeted by malware continues to rise by the day and the cost of recovery in the event of a successful attack can be very expensive. This means that in order to protect students and staff, it is important to be proactive rather than reactive. If you want to know more about keeping your school or university safe, contact us at 877-684-2077, and in the meantime, check out our webinar to see what one of our customers had to say about how working with Critical Start helps keep his district safe.


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