Exclusive: iboss Issues School District Cybersecurity Warning

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K-12 schools in the United States may have a “startlingly low understanding of growing cybersecurity risks,” according to new research by Zero Trust Edge cloud security provider iboss

The company teamed up with national education nonprofit organization Project Tomorrow to survey nearly 600 district administrators and technology leaders from school districts across the United States between January and May 2021.

According to iboss, the resulting report “should serve as a wakeup call for districts and parents, as cybersecurity incidents at schools can result in stolen student information as well as cripple emergency communications systems and potentially shut down schools.”

The research revealed that only 12% of school technology leaders believe that their school board members have a high degree of awareness regarding cybersecurity issues. The leaders said the same could be said for fewer than half (39%) superintendents and only 19% of school site principals. 

Asked about their cybersecurity spending over the past two school years, during which COVID-19-related school closures forced institutions across the country to adopt remote learning, only 18% of tech leaders reported an increase in their IT department’s cybersecurity budget.

Nearly half (47%) said that there had been no change in the budget from the 2019-20 academic year to the 2020-21 school year.

Worryingly, nearly six in 10 technology leaders said they didn’t have enough cybersecurity staff to protect their district’s information, assets and resources.

Most (68%) technology leaders favored limiting access to sensitive data. However, this opinion was shared by only three in 10 district administrators.

While 46% of tech leaders were highly concerned about a cyber-attack on their school network, only 22% of school district administrators felt similarly.

“I’ve worked in both the tech and non-profit education sectors and found that enterprises have much greater awareness of cyber risk and are more willing to take the necessary proactive steps than schools,” said Dr Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow.

She added: “Both technology and academic leaders need to work together, sharing knowledge and concerns throughout the school district, to prevent further breaches and attacks. This new report can be a valuable resource for this new cooperative planning efforts.”

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