Dominik Birgelen, CEO of oneclick AG

IT For Education: Remain Secure with Tech Agnostic Platforms

Dominik Birgelen, CEO of oneclick AG discusses why cybersecurity in educational institutions has become more important than ever before and how secure portals can allow students to access educational content via any device and browser from anywhere.

The UK government is actively taking steps to boost the potential of technology within the education sector. Digital learning has become more popular than ever before but has also left educational institutions highly exposed to risks of cyber attacks. In the post-pandemic world where hybrid learning has become a standard practice, schools and universities have become a tempting target for hackers. In recent years, the UK education sector has witnessed a rise in ransomware that has led to the loss of crucial information such as student coursework and financial records.

Remote capabilities are reshaping the learning environment and how students access resources. As a result of virtual learning, students are wanting to log into their learning portals from various different locations. However, as much as it brings comfort for students it also makes educational institutions vulnerable by exposing them to unsecure Wi-Fi networks and new devices used. In order to embrace hybrid learning and strengthen their modes of teaching, it is indispensable for the education sector to implement cyber security measures.

Disrupting technologies such as cloud computing can enable the education sector to increase safety, drive efficiency, and enhance the overall learning experience for students. From K-12 to higher education, teaching and learning experience can be transformed by the adoption of agnostic secure portals to deliver education whilst minimising security risks. The question that comes to mind is how? Is cloud computing enough? Does it require advanced security layers? In order to understand this, educational institutions must be aware of an appropriate implementation.

Experiencing limited budgets with a range of security challenges, it can be difficult for educational institutions to secure entire systems. In several instances, schools and universities use multiple unique devices, and a decentralised approach to security that increases the exposure to cyber threats.

Many educational institutions have already initiated their cloud journeys, thanks to the virtual boom. However, the cloud needs an appropriate implementation coupled with effective measures. Classic firewalls can block attackers from the Internet but their effectiveness decreases when it comes to detecting attacks or unauthorised lateral movements within larger and distributed hybrid structures. To protect cyber assets from well organised hackers, a next-gen solution is essential. Implementing cloud solutions combined with a Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) and additional authentication services can enable educational institutions to maximise security by making backend systems perform the majority of the authentication process.

By the virtue of ZTA, educational institutions can treat every single login with no trust whilst establishing the same criteria for everyone. ZTA isolates individuals in their user environment to minimise the risk of misuse of data and spying. Interestingly, the users are not only authenticated at the time of their login but also their activity is monitored continuously and trust status is questioned regularly. On any detection of unusual activity or possible risk the platform interrupts the granted access to the user. A tech agnostic platform can become a secure method to deliver learning by the adoption of ZTA.

Last year, the UK recorded a 142% increase in weekly cyber attacks targeting education institutions, including a significant rise in ransomware attacks on schools. 2022 alone has already experienced massive cyber attacks, for instance an attack in January that caused five thousand schools to go offline. What’s more, a global joint alert has been issued by the UK, the US and Australia after the rise in ransomware attacks with the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre recognising these attacks as a “rising global threat”.

There is no denying that hybrid models of learning widen the threat surface in the education sector and make schools, colleges and universities more vulnerable to cyber criminals. In this situation it becomes vital for these educational institutions to apply necessary measures to minimise the risk of a cyber attack. In order to not only protect the sensitive data from external threats but also from any internal misuse, it is essential for the education sector to adopt offerings of cloud-based security solutions. This includes ZTA and additional authentication services that can enable educators to authenticate and monitor every single user.

The increasing digitisation provides several benefits but also brings significant cyber security challenges. Educational institutions being a prime target for hackers cannot afford to overlook their cybersecurity measures and strategies. Education Industry 4.0 has become that goal of many institutions that aim to enhance the learning experience by leveraging advanced technologies. Therefore, educators must not cut corners on cybersecurity and should utilise the advanced cloud-based technologies to increase safety while providing seamless learning experience.

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