Why spending and thinking smarter, not harder, can help protect against cyber attacks

Expensive tech and expert-level knowledge are not always necessary to keep your school safe, says James Kight, Managing Director at Printerland

There’s no denying that education and technology are closely intertwined, with schools and colleges benefiting massively from cutting-edge tech. However, a greater reliance on technology does increase your vulnerability to cyber attacks, so it’s more important than ever to have a comprehensive understanding of your school’s IT systems.

According to research by Ecclesiastical, one in five education establishments has been targeted by hackers. Schools are often perceived as easy targets, with the assumption that teachers and parents are incapable of dealing with online threats. Because of this, it is essential for education professionals to become more knowledgeable about such risks.

From tight financial budgets to limited knowledge of new programmes, here are some of the biggest issues facing education when it comes to data security:

Budgets 

Without question, cost efficiency is of paramount importance in education technology. Schools and colleges are typically given unnegotiable financial budgets, and yet can’t afford to overlook technological advancements which may improve data security.

Purchasing older, cheaper technology can be tempting when trying to save money, especially with equipment that you wouldn’t traditionally classify as a security risk. However, a failure to update such systems leaves a school vulnerable to costly cyber attacks in the future.

Schools and colleges don’t have the money to continuously update equipment, and there is the added presumption that more intelligent technology is very costly. However, investment in more advanced systems with better security features will save you money in the long term as future running costs are minimised.

Without question, cost efficiency is of paramount importance in education technology.

Knowledge

It goes without saying that a lack of knowledge makes you more vulnerable in the tech world. This does not mean that education professionals require an in-depth understanding of every single programme, device and system though. Instead, you can encourage safeguarding practices by developing a comprehensive understanding of where data is stored and who has access to it.

Conducting a thorough audit of internal processes, policies and equipment within your organisation will encourage greater understanding and compliance. Carefully reading manufacturers’ guidelines and following their advice will also help better prepare you for any potential issues.

Greater awareness is the key to preventing security breaches. Ensuring that all staff understand the importance of document security protection is pivotal to defending schools against threats.

Printers as storage devices

Ever-increasing hard drive space means that printers shouldn’t be overlooked when assessing cyber security risk. Schools and colleges must ensure that their devices have the necessary security features built in for the type of printing, copying and scanning being performed. If printers are used to store data via the hard drive, the device should have the highest level of encryption. Similarly, if sensitive data is communicated via Wi-Fi, user authentication and access tools are imperative.

Most large printer manufacturers offer enterprise-level security, such as intrusion prevention, device detection and data protection. Ask your supplier for products built specifically for use in education, as closer communication about your specific needs will help you get the best value for money.

Summary

When trying to safeguard sensitive student data and information, organisation is key. Understanding what can go wrong, as well as how to combat and control this, will make a crucial difference.

Protecting the welfare and security of students is always going to be of paramount importance. As with all sectors, the best way to ensure you are safeguarding information is to prepare for all eventualities. This can be achieved by embracing smart solutions, ensuring basic knowledge of the accompanied risks, and ensuring that cyber security is a priority among all staff.