By Rick Vanover, senior director of product strategy, Veeam
As the holidays approach, many schools are looking toward the upcoming fall and winter breaks. The same can be said for bad actors who capitalize on when staff and students are preoccupied with exams and preparing to return or leave the classroom to launch cyber attacks.
Often these attacks take the form of ransomware where bad actors seize files containing sensitive data, encrypt them and demand a ransom payment for returning the information. A single attack can lead to hundreds of student and staff medical records, financial histories and social security numbers in the hands of hackers.
Ransomware attacks on K-12 schools increased by 56% in the past two years. As the holidays approach, bad actors will be waiting for school IT departments to become preoccupied with last-minute staff and student demands. It is imperative that schools do their best to provide a learning environment that’s safe from all threats, including ransomware.
Schools should increase their cyber preparedness by developing a disaster recovery plan, educating their staff and students about cyber risks and practicing strong cyber hygiene across their networks as much as possible.
Developing a disaster recovery plan
A strong disaster recovery (DR) plan first requires an IT baseline. Schools should examine their entire IT infrastructure and develop a comprehensive list of all their hardware, software, device and applications in addition to details like passwords and file location.
With this in place, schools can then create a plan with all their IT components in mind. This plan should include clear, tactical steps to follow, and leaders should ensure that every employee knows their role and responsibilities before, after and during an attack.
One essential element of this plan is an organization’s backup approach. Schools should look to implement the 3-2-1-1-0 rule when it comes to their backup strategy as much as possible. In this rule, each number signifies a policy. First, a minimum of three copies of data should always be maintained — though schools are highly recommended to maintain four or five copies if possible. Next, at least two of the copies should be stored on two different types of media with one copy stored off-site and one offline to provide additional resources in case other backups are compromised. The final number, zero, signifies that there should be zero errors across the backups. If schools use this rule as a baseline for their backups, they should be able to recover their data and be confident in its reliability.
It’s no secret IT service management (ITSM) can help companies and businesses streamline efficiencies, cut down on costs, and improve customer satisfaction. But can it help schools? Today, many educational entities are embracing the use of ITSM, or the process and technology used to plan, deliver, and support IT services, at a rapid rate – and for good reason.
Take the average college or university for example. During any given year, there are thousands of students enrolled, and these students need help with everything from configuring the Wi-Fi to resetting their campus password. Along with students, there are faculty, staff, and alumni who also need assistance with things like booking rooms, renting equipment, and troubleshooting issues.
Accessing such services could mean a phone call, an email, or an in-person visit to the relevant department. Or it could be as simple as registering a ticket in an easy-to-navigate self-service portal.
But it’s not just higher education institutions embracing ITSM. Many secondary schools or multi-academy trusts are finding value in the performance, reliability and improved efficiency ITSM can help provide. Millfield School, for example, implemented ITSM to great success in improving communication across sites and between departments.
What is ITSM and how does it work?
ITSM is the process of designing, delivering, managing, and improving the IT services an organization provides to its end users. For example, instead of a student having to email or call the IT department for help with configuring the Wi-Fi or a professor making a special trip to the departmental office to rent a lecture hall, they simply log into their ITSM portal, fill out a request and go about their day.
Here are five ways ITSM can help educational institutions – from primary schools to universities:
1. Reduced operational costs and improved efficiency
ITSM tools help streamline problem resolution. As a result, your helpdesk team will spend less time on each service request and the users will be back up and running faster. ITSM insights can also help identify which resources are not being used efficiently. For example, is there technology that isn’t being used because it’s out of date? Are there certain rooms that are constantly requested because they house the latest equipment and connectivity? A good ITSM tool can help you identify ways to streamline and update your school’s resources.
Vanishing budgets, reckless users, infected machines, unpatched software… This is what education IT admins are up against every day. How do you keep up? How do you ensure you’re meeting demands for the latest technology, while keeping students, faculty and staff productive, and your network secure – all while staying on budget?
Here are 10 security best practices to shore up your defenses:
Install Endpoint Security
Your best defense against the vast majority of malware is your endpoint security solution. Select one that performs strongly with independent tests such as AV-Comparatives. Look for advanced features that protect against prevalent threats like ransomware, and choose an endpoint security solution that offers protection at multiple attack points to defend against bad websites, phishing and spam, malicious URLs, zero-days and other online threats.
Restrict Administrator Rights
Only authorized, knowledgeable IT admins should have administrator rights to your PCs. While restricting rights may sometimes feel inconvenient, granting administrator rights to a broad user base is a major risk. To maintain the highest security standards, you must ensure that users cannot change critical settings, download and install whatever software programs they wish, or disable the security tools you’ve put in place. Fortunately, some malware is unable to execute and make malicious system changes if the user is logged in without admin rights, thus creating an additional layer of defense for users who may encounter malware.
Install and Update a Firewall
Whether it’s the Windows firewall or a third-party firewall application, be sure to install a firewall to defend against malicious network traffic. Firewalls monitor and control traffic in and out of your network. To protect users against downloading malicious content or to stop communication to harmful IP addresses, a firewall is a critical line of defense. Always keep it updated or it will start to miss threats.
Don’t ignore those prompts to update popular software applications used in your organization. In many cases, prompts to update Adobe, Java, Chrome, iTunes, Skype and others are to fix newly-discovered security vulnerabilities in those products. Cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities to open a backdoor onto your systems so they can drop malware and infect your network. Implement an automated patch management solution to address this issue, or select an endpoint security solution with patch management included.
Colby-Sawyer College has received $1.5 million in federal funding to support the construction of a new home for its School of Nursing & Health Sciences.
The $1.5 million, allocated as part of the 2022 government funding bill signed into law by President Joseph Biden earlier this year, was earmarked to support the construction of a new nursing and health sciences building on campus at the request of U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. These funds bring the total amount raised for the $15.7 million project to $9.5 million.
“We are grateful to Sen. Shaheen for her continued support of the college’s commitment to preparing uniquely qualified healthcare professionals for generations to come,” Colby-Sawyer President Susan. D. Stuebner said. “This state-of-the-art facility will ensure that Colby-Sawyer is prepared to meet the latest trends in healthcare education while also serving as a space that will benefit students across all majors.”
Colby-Sawyer announced its intention to construct a new 20,500-square-foot home for its School of Nursing & Health Sciences earlier this year to help accommodate growing enrollment within its undergraduate nursing and health science programs. Construction of the facility, slated to begin this spring and be completed by fall 2024, will also allow the college to integrate state-of-the-art technology into its classrooms and laboratories.
The announcement of the building and the college’s commitment to increasing enrollment in its health science programs comes at a time when healthcare providers across the nation are struggling to fill workforce vacancies. According to a recent NH Business Review survey, more than 2,000 healthcare worker vacancies in New Hampshire were left unfilled in 2018, with experts saying they expect that number to increase in the future.
To address this shortage, Colby-Sawyer has pledged to significantly increase enrollment in its undergraduate nursing program, expand its Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program and add additional health science programs in areas of specific need. These programs include a master’s degree in social work as well as a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.
“All of us at Colby-Sawyer are grateful to Sen. Shaheen for her leadership and for her support of the college’s efforts in addressing a growing shortage of highly trained healthcare professionals,” Vice President for College Advancement Dan Parish said. “This new facility will not only provide state-of-the-art laboratory and simulation spaces for health sciences students, but it will also serve as a gathering place at the heart of the campus for our entire community.”
As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Shaheen successfully advocated for the inclusion of $62 million to support projects in New Hampshire involving infrastructure, healthcare, research, homeland security and more. The $1.5 million being allocated toward a new School of Nursing & Health Sciences building is among more than $15 million being designated toward labor and health and human services projects in the Granite State.
“I’m thrilled that Colby-Sawyer is benefitting in a big way from the congressionally directed spending process, which demonstrates why this process is so important to help smaller states like New Hampshire get their fair share,” said Shaheen, after the government funding bill was signed into law earlier this year. “I pushed for these federal dollars to be included for Colby-Sawyer’s nursing program because we know about the incredible education and training provided at the college, which is a boon to our nursing workforce in New Hampshire. As we fight our way through the pandemic, increasing our healthcare workforce — especially among nursing staff — is pivotal. Nurses are healthcare heroes and I’m thrilled to see this funding come home to New Hampshire to help train and educate the next group of these devoted professionals.”
The two-story facility will include common areas and conference spaces, as well as classrooms, faculty offices, laboratories, a simulation center and a coffee shop, among other spaces.
Shannon Flynn is a freelance blogger who covers education technologies, cybersecurity and IoT topics. You can follow Shannon on Muck Rack or Medium to read more of her articles.
Cybersecurity is a top concern for most high-performing organizations regardless of size, location, or industry. The cybersecurity threat landscape is growing rapidly for a few reasons.
Effective cybersecurity awareness training is one critical element of virtually every cybersecurity program. Without this piece of the puzzle, higher education institutions and their faculty and staff cannot adequately protect themselves and their students from cyberattacks.
Continue reading to learn more about cybersecurity in higher education, why prevention is wiser than reaction, and the technologies and resources institutions can use for cybersecurity awareness training.
Why Higher Education Is a Target for Cyberattacks
The world is becoming more digital than ever, adding to the massive amount of data circulating online. Additionally, cybercriminals took advantage of the rapid shift to hybrid learning, targeting members of colleges and universities and the digital tools fostering a successful learning environment.
BEcause of expanded attack surfaces, many institutions are rethinking their cybersecurity strategies. In doing so, they are actively protecting their financial assets and reputations. Ultimately, all colleges and universities aim to maintain a strong cybersecurity posture so faculty, staff, and students can succeed in the academic environment.
Using a Proactive Approach to Cybersecurity in Higher Ed
Some college and university leaders might believe their school is not at risk of experiencing a cybersecurity incident. However, the reality is that higher ed is a prime target.
Cybercriminals attack higher ed schools for several reasons: Extracting private data, leveraging malware, forcing payments using ransomware, or causing network outages to disrupt operations.
As mentioned above, colleges and universities quickly pivoted during the pandemic to build their digital infrastructures, create an open technology environment, and encourage information sharing. Unfortunately, these benefits are double-edged swords because it makes the job of a cybercriminal that much easier.
Because higher education institutions could face an increased risk of experiencing cybersecurity incidents, they must use a proactive approach to cybersecurity instead of a reactive one. One way to be proactive is to implement effective cybersecurity awareness training for all college and university faculty and staff.
3 Benefits of Cybersecurity Awareness Training for Faculty and Staff in Higher Education
There’s a strong business case for colleges and universities to train faculty and staff in cybersecurity. Here are three primary benefits this training can offer a higher education institution:
Fortinet, a global leader in broad, integrated and automated cybersecurity solutions, today announced that Chandler Unified School District is providing its more than 5,200 faculty and staff with Fortinet’s information Security Awareness and Training service to build cyber awareness and to further strengthen the district’s security posture.
Tied with the White House National Cyber Workforce and Education Summit in July, Fortinet announced the expansion of its existing Security Awareness and Training service to K-12 school districts across the United States free of cost. Chandler Unified School District joins other districts across the U.S. reaping the benefits of Fortinet’s free service offering, enabling them to build a cyber-aware workforce and improve their skillsets to avoid breaches at educational institutions.
Chandler Unified School District Selects Fortinet’s Cyber Awareness Training
Chandler Unified School District has seen the value of Fortinet’s service and is deploying it across the district to provide its faculty and staff with skill sets and knowledge that could prevent them from falling victim to popular cyber adversary methods, such as social engineering attempts, helping to reduce their cyber risk.
Colleen Flannery, Chief Technology Officer for Chandler Unified School District shared, “With more than 5200 staff and faculty logging in from both school and personal devices, it’s important everyone has the skills to recognize social engineering and other popular attacks. Cyber criminals don’t discriminate against the education sector, which presents a real need to ensure all our faculty and staff are cyber informed and know best practices. There’s no reason why a public school district should pass up this opportunity Fortinet is providing free of cost to use their award-winning training curriculum to instill must-have cyber skill sets. More than ever, cybersecurity is everyone’s job, and we want all our school members to practice this in their day-to-day online activities.”
Building Cyber Awareness in K-12 School Districts
Many K-12 school districts are rapidly transforming their networks to implement e-learning and other digital programs to enhance student learning across distributed campuses. As part of school districts’ digital transformation, it is critical that schools implement the right security solutions with integrated and comprehensive protection to keep the large amounts of personally identifiable information (PII) they store secure. At the same time, as the first line of defense, it is also essential for all school district employees to have a fundamental cyber awareness knowledge in order to spot any threats or cyberattacks.
To address this need, Fortinet offers its Security Awareness and Training service at no cost to all K-12 school districts in the U.S., and has updated the training for this offering to be education-focused, aligned with NIST 800-50 and NIST 800-16 guidelines. This initiative will help more than 8 million staff and faculty members across the country.
Validation as a Certified Cybersecurity Training Program
Providing further validation, local governments are recognizing Fortinet’s Security Awareness and Training service customized for school districts as a certified program, including the Texas Department of Information Resources, who added the service to its list of approved and certified cyber training options as part of the statewide employee requirement for cyber awareness training.
Rob Rashotte, VP of Global Training and Field Enablement at Fortinet said, “As the first line of defense, it is critical that school faculty and staff are able to identify and report threats to keep sensitive data and information secure. Fortinet’s Security Awareness and Training service, with customized learning content for school districts, will help develop cyber-aware culture to prevent these institutions from falling victim to cyberattacks. Making this service free to K-12 school districts in the U.S. is part of the Fortinet Training Institute’s initiative to make training more accessible to help close the cyber skills gap. We are excited to see additional validation from local governments that are making this service a certified program as part of their approved list of cyber training programs for employees.”
Colby-Sawyer College has once again been recognized as one of the top colleges in the region by U.S. News & World Report, earning a pair of top 10 rankings in the publication’s 2023 Best Colleges issue.
The annual report, released Monday, ranks Colby-Sawyer in a tie for second place in its Best Undergraduate Teaching (North) category for regional colleges, and in the top 10 in its Best Regional Colleges (North) category for a sixth straight year. Colby-Sawyer also earned a 23rd-place ranking on the report’s Top Performers on Social Mobility (North) list.
“We are delighted to be recognized by U.S. News as one of the top institutions in our region,” said Colby-Sawyer President Susan D. Stuebner, who last week announced plans to cut tuition by more than 60% to $17,500 to begin for the 2023 academic year in an effort to increase transparency in college pricing. “Many prospective students and families find this information useful in their college searches. Our top 10 ranking affirms our institutional strength to prospective students.”
Colby-Sawyer ranks in a tie for second place in the report’s Best Undergraduate Teaching Among Regional Colleges (North) category, which recognizes schools where faculty and administrators have “an unusually strong commitment to undergraduate teaching” according to the U.S. News website. This is the third consecutive year that the college has ranked in the top three in the Best Undergraduate Teaching category, which utilizes the results of a peer assessment survey of college presidents, provosts and admissions deans to determine rankings.
“I am especially glad to see the college recognized again by U.S. News for our undergraduate teaching,” Stuebner said. “Our faculty are very talented and well-versed in their respective fields, and they work tirelessly to support our students’ growth academically. Whether it be teaching an introductory course or working with a student on their senior capstone, our faculty are deeply committed to student learning. US News’s ranking reflects their very hard work to help students explore, connect and make a difference.”
Colby-Sawyer earned a ninth-place ranking in the report’s Best Regional Colleges (North), placing ahead of 35 similarly sized institutions from Pennsylvania to Maine. The category ranks both public and private institutions focused on undergraduate education that grant fewer than 50% of their degrees in liberal arts disciplines. Of the eight schools to place ahead of Colby-Sawyer in the category, only four are privately funded.
Colby-Sawyer also placed 23rd in U.S. News’s rankings for Top Performers in Social Mobility (North) category. The category made its debut in the report’s 2020 Best Colleges issue and recognizes institutions for advancing social mobility by enrolling and graduating large proportions of students awarded Pell Grants.
U.S. News groups colleges into categories based on the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, which it calls the most widely accepted classification system in U.S. higher education. The report bills itself as the top peer benchmarking and performance assessment tool in higher education.
Responses from Amanda M. Melvin, lead public health analyst, HSR.health.
Geospatial data is information that describes events, objects, or features within a location on or near the surface of the Earth.
The role geospatial data plays in the safe return to school has to do with where the school is situated in addition to where the students and teachers who attend that school live. This information allows us to use geospatially encoded data surrounding the COVID crisis to determine the relative safety of a school. We also consider the surrounding area of the school, the students and teachers, and environmental data pertaining to the school itself. All of these data points are involved in determining the probability of disease transmission within the community and to understand how best to mitigate the associated risks.
Can AI be used reliably to track and identify the risk of disease transmission in a school environment? What about new variants of COVID-19?
In short, there is little AI can’t do. Using AI, data scientists are able to develop new solutions to critical world problems on a daily basis. For example, data scientists are now able to leverage broad sets of geocoded data and machine learning models to identify the risk of disease transmission continuously across various circumstances and environments.
In regards to identifying the risks associated with the unfortunate rise in new variants of COVID-19, yes, AI can be used to reliably track and identify these. A defined place like a school and individual classrooms have specific air flow patterns that can be modeled to test viral propogation. The movements and interactions of teachers and students within that space can also be modeled to assess the level of potential exposure to infectious diseases.
This goes for both known and novel variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Anticipating the next dominant variant is critical to an effective response.
In identifying risks in a school setting, how do geospatial data and AI work together?
Geospatial data and AI work hand and hand to paint a complete picture of the risks in a school setting. Geospatial data informs the initial conditions of this analysis. By leveraging data that represents the ZIP Codes or home counties of the student body, teachers, administrators, parents, and others who may frequent the school, the model can accurately capture and inform an accurate representation of that school or district’s specific COVID-19 situation.
Interoperability—the ability of software programs to seamlessly connect to one another by seamlessly exchanging information and common language—is something we’ve been steadily working towards in edtech. Plenty of progress has been made, but in many ways it feels like we’re only starting to scratch the surface of what’s possible, and the work that needs to be done to get there.
At the same time the interoperability conversation continues, we’re also smack-dab in the middle of a new era of teaching and learning in K12 schools. More learning is happening outside of school buildings than ever before. Teacher happiness and retention continue to be a high priority, with a big part of that happiness focused on cutting down and streamlining tedious administrative tasks so teachers can maximize their time.
A strong student information system (SIS) can be a cornerstone of your district’s educational data, creating ways to communicate with parents, monitor progress, manage remote learning, and support staff all in one swoop. However, we also know that your SIS is just one piece of the edtech interoperability puzzle. So, let’s explore the current discussion and increasing importance around the need for edtech interoperability in K12 schools:
Interoperability and Remote Learning: The Continued Push for Open Standards
Remote learning—in some form—is here to stay, and to prepare for the classroom of the future, many schools and districts invested heavily in edtech platforms to engage students and fill in learning gaps. However, more edtech often leads to an increase in siloed information—unless the platforms have made it their mission to adopt open standards for interoperability.
The call for edtech that prioritizes interoperability has been louder than ever before, with a national snapshot from the IMS Global Learning Consortium showing that schools and districts that prioritized interoperability open standards when choosing digital tools and resources were able to make a more seamless shift to remote learning. In March 2021, IMS took the facilitation of open standards to the next level with the launch of their Standards First program. Educational institutions and edtech suppliers alike are encouraged to sign the pledge, which demonstrates advocacy, transparency, and trust over the shared goal of open standards.
Some traditional colleges have a resistance to change and haven’t adapted as well as they probably could to digitize their programs. WGU is a digitally native university, so when the pandemic hit, it was easy for us to scale to meet the massive influx of new students who wanted to learn new skills and qualifications during the lockdown.
But not every traditional brick-and-mortar institution was able to adapt as quickly. I feel we have always been very innovative in being able to adopt new technologies, but other institutions don’t have the same infrastructure. Their governance can often prevent them from adopting new technologies and ways of teaching as quickly as possible.
Whenever you digitize information, there is always a cybersecurity risk, but as a company, we always aspired to be at the forefront of technology and innovation. We have many dedicated departments who are committed to using top-tier technology to ensure students’ information is safe and secure.
Students today use various devices to attend online classes – smartphones, tablets, desktops, etc. This means that we constantly have to adapt and ensure that our technology is compatible with the myriad of new devices continually being made.