K-12 Education, Security

Fully-Managed Cybersecurity Services: Why School Districts are Outsourcing Security to an MSP

Chaz Hager August 20 2021

Cybersecurity threats are no longer reserved for businesses, government agencies, and public industries. Public and private school systems are at an increased risk of security issues from cyber threats to IT infrastructure. In the past 5 years, there have been over 850 documented cases of cyber incidents in school systems throughout the United States.

Because a threat like cybercrime evolves rapidly, many school districts are turning to fully-managed tech and IT services to prevent larger issues. Such steps are crucial for protecting educational opportunities and private student data.

Keep reading to learn how managed cybersecurity services can be an asset to any school district.


What are Managed Cybersecurity Services?

Managed cybersecurity services fall under the broad umbrella of managed services. When an organization chooses managed IT services, important tasks related to network maintenance, cloud computing, security, and communication fall to the managed services provider (MSP).

This option is helpful for businesses and organizations that do not specialize in IT infrastructure. Many times, outsourcing provides better protection and greater flexibility than would be available by using internal resources.

Managed cybersecurity services include a broad range of tasks related to protecting sensitive information and establishing network security. This includes:

  • Finding and patching network vulnerabilities (before they become a problem)
  • Intrusion detection and prevention
  • Identity management and personal access solutions
  • Incident response and mitigation

Why Are School Districts Targeted?

Although any organization can become the victim of a cyber attack, school districts are uniquely positioned for vulnerabilities. One reason for rising cybercrime rates is that school systems, particularly those with smaller IT budgets, don’t often have the internal staff or resources needed to maintain highly secure networks. Hackers know that minimal resources often equates to an open door for carrying out their motives.

Education is also evolving. The activities that were once reserved for textbooks and paper submissions are now being conducted largely online, in virtual settings that cybercriminals can more easily access. With a large-scale switch to online learning, schools must add layers of protection that make it more difficult for cybercriminals to carry out attacks. 

Cybersecurity Risks in School Systems

School systems fall victim to the same cybersecurity threats that happen in other industries. The key to preventing these risks is to have a working knowledge of what they are and how to spot the warning signs.

Phishing

Phishing is one of the ways that cybercriminals gain access to educational systems. In this type of attack, scammers send targeted messages (such as emails or texts) to gain access to confidential information like passwords and personal data.

Ransomware

Ransomware attacks happen when cybercriminals steal and encrypt data from a network. In order to release this data, criminals often demand payment. Because school systems rely on so many devices and access points, ransomware poses a significant threat.

Benefits of Managed Cybersecurity Services for School Systems

School systems have much to gain by choosing a managed cybersecurity services provider to prevent future attacks. Advantages include:

  • Protecting vulnerable data (particularly for students and minors)
  • Establishing community trust and reputation
  • Safeguarding staff and faculty information
  • Creating safe and flexible options for virtual learning
  • Saving valuable time and resources by outsourcing to cybersecurity experts

Teacher smiling at camera in classroom at the elementary school-2

Preventing School-Wide Security Risks and Future Attacks

While a managed cybersecurity service provider offers peace of mind, school districts must take steps to minimize future security risks. Since up to 75% of schools nationwide plan to offer some form of eLearning, this responsibility has never been more urgent. 

Here are a few steps that schools can take to prevent future security risks:

  • Be proactive – Always have a plan in place, even when using a managed service provider. Think strategically about your school’s IT infrastructure, network access, and data privacy. When required, publish your district’s cybersecurity plan.
  • Provide education to staff and families What are the expectations for reducing risks at an individual level? In school systems, numerous individuals need access to systems, but they may not be trained on how to spot warning signs. As you invest in cybersecurity services, don’t forget to share what these services include and how parents, families, and students can help prevent problems.

  • Third-party risk management – With virtual learning on the rise, remote access is essential. Unfortunately, hackers know how to expose and leverage third party access points. When choosing an MSP, always select a provider that understands and protects third party systems.

Conclusion

While there’s no need to panic about the rising threat of cybercrime in today’s digital landscape, there are plenty of reasons to be diligent. As more school districts outsource their security needs to managed service providers, the risk of cybercrime against schools, students, and personnel can be greatly reduced.

Learn how Northriver IT can help your school district combat cybersecurity issues before they begin. Check out our Education Industry Spotlight page, or contact our team directly to get a head start on protecting against cyber threats.

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