Supporting cybersecurity in education

Schools are a common target for cyber criminals trying to steal personal information. This blog discusses how schools can foster digital citizenship while defending students and their network from cyber threats.

September 5 2023 by

Hannah Hamilton

Young student using iPad secured by Jamf

Many schools across the globe use technology in the classroom, from smart whiteboards to tablets to laptops and more. Students may do most of their work on their devices, both at school and at home.

When students leave school, they don’t leave how they interacted with these devices behind. This is why it’s critical that students aren’t just told what rules they must follow; they must be taught good digital citizenship and how to be safe online. This isn’t always easy — there are countless threats and inappropriate content on the internet, all within a fingertip’s reach. Schools are forced to grapple not only with learning and teaching but also with internet best practices for teachers, administrators and students alike.

The U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology recently published a K-12 digital infrastructure brief to provide guidance on how to build a resilient and secure digital infrastructure at K-12 institutions. In this blog, we’ll talk about the ideas included in this brief and how Jamf can help schools meet their goal of safe and productive internet exploration.

Watch our webinar about digital citizenship and cyber resilience.

Internet usage in schools

The internet is an unavoidable part of life — as much as we might like young students to avoid the world wide web, at some point they are going to use it for work, entertainment, networking and more. Creating a safe place for students to explore their curiosity and take advantage of tools the internet has to offer is critical for schools as they educate the next generation of digital citizens.

To take advantage of the internet, schools should consider:

  • Prevention over inspection — prevent access to risky, inappropriate or dangerous sites without surveilling every action students make
  • Allowing students the freedom to explore while educating them on how to browse safely
  • Teaching “curiosity within restraint” so students learn what’s right, not unexplained rules that say what to do or not do

This isn’t a simple ask. Schools are often seen as a vulnerable target for cyber criminals, as they hold a host of personal information— often without adequate security protections. In 2022, 78% of schools were victims of cyber attacks in the UK, 45 school districts in the US were hit with ransomware attacks and Australian schools were attacked, on average, every seven minutes. However you slice it, schools are being targeted by cyber criminals, and many institutions don’t have the resources or know-how to keep their defenses up.

So what can schools do to keep up?

Creating a comprehensive internet safety framework

Building an internet safety framework that protects students and a school’s network involves school faculty and staff, students and parents. To start with IT, these are some tools and procedures that can start the process:

  • Content filtering to automatically restrict inappropriate content
  • Threat prevention software to mitigate and prevent cyber threats
  • Training programs that educate students, teachers, parents and administrators on cybersecurity best practices

Schools should examine their risk profile — what are the weakest points that could allow an attacker into their system? This includes all users on their devices and networks, as well as any vendors connected to school resources. After this evaluation, it’s time to:

  • Establish preventative measures that balance ease-of-use and security holes that this might open up.
  • Keep software up-to-date.
  • Create a solid recovery plan in the event of an attack that mitigates the impact of an attack and gets operations back to normal as soon as possible.
  • Develop a long-term resilience plan to evolve with cyber threats and keep ahead of attacks.

Related reading: Education Technology Management for Beginners

Teaching digital citizenship

Users are a key weak point in any security system. To address this, schools can:

  • Design age-appropriate internet safety curricula for students.
  • Train faculty and staff to recognize and respond to online risk.
  • Encourage parental involvement and collaboration in promoting safe internet habits, especially if devices go home with students.

Education is more effective than restricting total access; students are protected based on their own knowledge rather than device behavior, setting them up for success once they aren’t using school-sanctioned devices.

Jamf Safe Internet

Jamf Safe Internet integrates with Jamf School to protect Apple, Google OS and Windows OS devices. Jamf Safe Internet is accessible to teachers and IT technicians alike, and includes preset or customizable security policies. Its powerful content filtering capabilities provide enterprise-level protection, include a database of nearly two million filterable domains and use machine learning to evaluate network risks in real time.

Jamf Safe Internet prevents students from accessing inappropriate sites and blocks malicious links. For example, if a student receives a convincing phishing email and clicks on the link, Jamf Safe Internet will restrict access to the site, preventing students from giving away critical information that puts them and your network at risk.

Related reading: The digital classroom

Learn more about content filtering for K-12 in our e-book.

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