The Value of Simulated Phishing: Guidance For Doing So

By Caroline Gilchrist, writer, Skyward, Inc.

Caroline Gilchrist

The sun has set on summer. But as an orange autumn moon rises to take its place, the waters of cyberspace only become more congested. Phishing, turns out, is always in season.

Want to give it a try?

I know—you’re one of the good guys, so why would you want to go phishing? The reason is simple: to prevent employees from being hooked down the line. Simulated phishing is a sort of catch-and-release method that can be an extremely valuable asset for IT leaders. Not only do simulated attacks remind employees to be ever vigilant while going through their inboxes, but they also give IT leaders a better idea of whether employees can effectively identify phishing attacks, or if they need additional training.

So, pull on your cap and waders. We’re going phishing!

Gear up

Before you let your line fly, it’s essential that you fully formulate your plan and discuss it with the leadership at your district. How often will you send out simulated attacks? What program will you use? How will you prepare your employees?

Don’t neglect that last one; making sure employees are up for the challenge is an important part of the process. After all, how can you expect them to identify phishing emails if they don’t know what to look for? Employees can learn to recognize and evade threats through online cybersecurity training programs. (This article gives a nice overview of several programs, including KnowBe4—our favorite.) Some of these programs include simulated phishing as well; no need to phish through a separate organization!

If you haven’t already, set up an easy way for employees to report phishing, ideally both to your email provider and your IT team. If your district’s email platform doesn’t have a simple way to report to the IT team, you can set up an inbox for employees to forward suspicious messages to (for example,

It’s best to keep your plan to simulate phishing under wraps in the beginning. An unannounced baseline test is a helpful way to truly gauge susceptibility to attacks. However, after your first simulation, explain the phishing drill to everyone! Open communication is vital to maintaining trust between leaders and those they lead.

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Costly COVID: How The Pandemic Is Hurting US Colleges’ Bottom Lines

By Patrick Ward, director of marketing, Rootstrap.

Patrick Ward

You don’t have to search far to find a family that’s had schooling upended by the pandemic. Stories echo in the virtual workplace meetings of hybrid schooling, anxious parents and students left baffled by a series of communication missteps. In the midst of all this chaos in the education industry, the tech side has seen an explosion in growth.

According to a recently released report from education development agency Rootstrap, the ed tech and online learning space has grown 335% in terms of revenue because of COVID-19, when compared with the previous year. This growth, however, is not being evenly distributed across the entire space.

Most notably, the majority of the increase (a staggering 559% revenue growth) was on education IT services that are used by universities to conduct and manage online coursework. Revenue increases for courses and e-learning alternatives to traditional college education was only up by 130%. These ed tech services include secure web conferencing licenses, ebooks, learning management systems, and a whole host of IT services specifically enabling universities to transition from an in-person model to a digital-first student experience.

The issue?

Universities are caught between a rock and a hard place. As much as universities have been spending big on Education IT services, they are taking a financial loss in declining revenue from income streams such as athletics, housing, and dining. Take UC Berkeley as one example: $10 million was spent on upgrading their technology to support online learning, while simultaneously anticipating a $340 million fiscal hit because of COVID-19. In summary: they’re spending more, and earning less.

As Aaron Rasmussen, founder of and MasterClass, states, “Traditional, in-person, higher education experience is suffering, since colleges are unable to deliver on much of their value proposition.”

For those colleges without the large endowment funds or brand name credentials, the situation is even more dire. New York University professor Scott Galloway predicts that as many as 10% to 20% of US universities could permanently close as a result of COVID-19.

So what’s causing this crisis in higher ed? At a casual glance, it boils down to two factors: structural and perceptive.

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Reimagining Campus IT Support Through Contactless Automated Solutions

By Michael Pitts, president, IVM, Inc.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced many higher education institutions into a virtual learning setting, many campus IT managers were already working at maximum capacity. Whether it was setting up new computers for teachers using equipment to facilitate lessons, distributing and servicing laptops purchased by students through the university, or fixing minor repairs, delays in getting essential technology into the hands of faculty and students caused frustration and reduced productivity on campuses across the country.

And now, as universities think through virtual course offerings and assess what the future of in-person education looks like, getting students back to campus safely while reducing unnecessary IT tasks and costs should be a key priority.

University IT departments need a seamless and contact-free distribution system to ensure faculty, staff, and students have access to technology when they need it. Automating technology distribution and IT support through smart lockers and kiosks is one solution that can provide flexible, contactless IT support as staff and students return to campus:

Revamping break/fix support

Today’s campus community relies on technology for both the instructor’s facilitation of lessons and a student’s completion of a course. A laptop waiting for repair can upend course progress and fall into a backlog of requests for IT staff. Automated smart lockers can facilitate frictionless break/fix support on campus by allowing 24/7 secure drop-off and pick-up times for device repair. Students and staff can video chat with an IT team member through a kiosk and receive face-to-face IT help without being person-to-person. Campus IT staff can remote into a device to make the necessary repairs, so students and staff quickly move on with their days.

If an issue is more complex and requires additional repairs, a user can place their device into a smart locker for the IT team to pick up for servicing. The technology also allows quick configuration of loaner devices, so a user who needs a device for temporary use can continue on with their studies until IT has repaired the original laptop.

Streamlining device distribution

Automating the IT support process allows IT staff to work more efficiently and better monitor the cost and use of IT help desk support. Smart lockers and kiosks provide valuable back-end data that guide IT departments in their inventory management. Device usage is automatically tracked and notifies IT when a laptop is taken or returned, allowing school administrators to gain an instant picture of IT support utilization.

Smart lockers also eliminate most administrative steps needed for device distribution. They allow campus IT staff who previously travelled across campus to deliver devices the ability to set up laptops in advance and have one team member drop them off to a designated locker. This helps save time on scheduling and delivering so IT can focus on more pressing projects.

For example, the University of Indianapolis recently piloted a program to distribute laptops to teachers automatically through smart lockers. The year-long program allowed the university to reduce the IT team’s time spent on scheduling, delivering and setting up laptops needed for teachers facilitating instruction by approximately 45 hours per week. In addition to saving irreplaceable time for the already busy IT staff, the university realized an overall help desk annual net savings of $20,744.

As university leaders and IT administrators plan for a safe transition back to campus, innovative thinking and new processes to equip a campus community with effective technology support is essential. Automated solutions such as smart lockers and kiosks ensure staff and students can safely educate and learn while having access to the IT support they need in order to be productive.

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Investment Is Critical To Overcoming the Digital Divide for K-12 Schools, Survey Finds

Promethean - NETbuilder Education

The impact of COVID-19 reached almost every district and classroom throughout the country, with nearly all educators turning to online strategies for student lessons and working remotely. However, according to Promethean’s 2020 “U.S. State of Technology” survey and report, only 20% of teachers and administrators considered their schools “very prepared to implement remote learning in response to COVID-19.” A much larger percentage of respondents, 41%, said they were only somewhat prepared, having the right IT, but not the processes in place.

The survey of nearly 1,200 American administrators and teachers explored the role technology currently plays in today’s K-12 schools, especially considering the new education realities stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

For many districts, remote learning brought the digital divide to the foreground, presenting significant professional challenges due to the inequality in access to technology that exists in communities today. Teachers ranked “students lack access to technology” and “engaging students” as their biggest professional challenges in a remote teaching scenario.

At the same time, all respondents stated the digital divide will be their biggest barrier to maximize student success in the 2020/21 school year.

“Technology continues to play a critical part in helping educators streamline learning and improve student outcomes,” said Cheryl Miller, chief marketing officer for Promethean. “As K-12 districts face a school year like none other, our 2020 State of Technology survey further demonstrates the need to make technology available to all districts and students to bridge learning gaps and help teachers create impactful learning experiences regardless of wherever those classrooms are taking place.”

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Education IT Was Booted To The Outfield

Response from Spencer Dunford, general manager, SmartDeploy.

While K-12 and higher education have been affected differently, they’ve both seen significant impact in their daily tasks and overall IT strategy due to changes in workplace and IT workload. IT for education was generally well-defined and entailed tasks that could often be scheduled weeks, if not months in advance.

Just as most every school year followed a predictable start, end, and vacation days between, so too did IT projects within that environment. In many cases even the emergency project was limited in scope in this “old” model of IT in education. IT could plan on summer lab refreshes, on-premise devices, and projects planned out with weeks or months to prepare, for example. COVID-19 changed this.

IT had to make an immediate shift to support remote learning for students, training for teachers, and in many cases, coaching up parents too. Many of the initial changes were quick reactions to the changed requirements. Now a new year has begun with these new rules.

All the while, budgets have not changed. IT teams are being stretched and challenged. This has created incredible opportunities to adopt new technologies at a speed that would have been unthinkable in the past. But it also has pushed generalists into new specialties, and even the rare EDU IT specialist into unfamiliar realms of new technology.

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Education, Virtual Learning and Cybersecurity: Managing The Trifecta Mid-Pandemic

By Wes Hutcherson, director of competitive intelligence, eSentire.

Wes Hutcherson

Educational institutions are being dealt a one-two-punch these days. If it’s not the financial crisis spawned by the global pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis, it’s schools and institutions of higher learning’s growing attractiveness as targets for cybercriminals. Over the past three years, educational institutions around the globe have seen an increase in incidents bypassing traditional prevention technologies, causing expensive remediation efforts. And it’s only getting worse.

The writing on the Blackbaud

In 2018, more than 300 universities worldwide and 144 U.S. universities were part of a cyberattack by Iranian hackers that stole more than 30 terabytes of data costing universities more than $3.4 billion dollars. A year later, the Georgia Institute of Technology reported they had been breached, exposing the personally identifiable information (PII) data of 1.3 million students, teachers, staff and student applicants.

More recently, the University of Utah paid out more than $457,000 to mitigate a ransomware attack on its computer servers. Earlier this summer, Blackbaud, a cloud computing company, was hit with ransomware. The company ultimately paid to protect its data, but the net result was that dozens of universities in the United States, Canada and Great Britain were impacted. And now, with increasing numbers of U.S. public schools opting for virtual classrooms for the foreseeable future, out comes a report that found security issues with Google Classroom.

All told, since 2005, the Privacy Right Clearinghouse reported that 780 data breaches have occurred in K-12 schools and institutions of higher education, so despite what you might have learned in school sometimes 780 multiplied by 15 (years) does equal 14,871,122, at least if you’re talking about numbers of compromised records.

The three “R”s: Reading, writing and regulation

The risk associated with student data is increasing, and compounding the problem is the unexpected shift to virtual learning environments that has only served to increase the pressure on already constrained cybersecurity resources. The education sector has a unique set of cybersecurity risks to factor in, including  a broad array of personal devices used to access information and learning platforms, as well as the adherence to governmental requirements that protect students’ sensitive data.

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Cox Communications Commits $60 Million To Digital Learning

Pat Esser

Cox Communications’ president and CEO Pat Esser announced in a live press conference today that Cox will pledge $60 million over the next year to close the digital learning gap.

Esser urged in the press conference the need for collaboration to solve the digital divide.

“Our commitment remains strong, but we cannot do this alone. We need to keep partnering with cities, school districts, counties and community-based organizations to get families connected,” said Esser. “Connection is more important than ever before, especially for kids.”

Esser also announced that Cox will be extending the company’s offer to new customers that qualify for Connect2Compete.  New customers that sign up for the program before the end of the year will receive the company’s low-cost internet for two months free, and $9.95 per month thereafter. Cox’s outdoor Wifi hotspots will also remain open to keep families connected during this time of need.

The press conference included Jim Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, the Superintendent of The Clark County School District in Nevada, Dr. Jesus Jara, Senator Jacky Rosen of Nevada and President and CEO of the NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, Michael Powell.

Cox CARES Act Solutions for Education

As school districts work to connect teachers and students through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Cox has launched Cox CARES Act Solutions for Education to help school districts as they implement virtual learning during the pandemic.

The CARES Act funds can be used by school districts for purchasing educational technology to support online learning for all K-12 students and for additional authorized activities.

Cox offers a variety of connectivity solutions to districts that are subsidizing internet to better support students and educators as they implement virtual learning and teleworking in their homes.

Cox CARES Act Solutions for Education include:

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Mastering The Reskilling Revolution

By Michael P. Morris, CEO, Topcoder and global head of crowdsourcing, Wipro.

Michael P. Morris

Between the speed of changing technology and the workplace disruption brought on by COVID-19, a topic on the minds of public/private sector organizations, is employee reskilling.

Traditional reskilling includes investing in retraining and skills development programs for current full-time employees. The philosophy is that many of the new skills they need to stay competitive and productive aren’t currently in-house.

You have good people—yet their skill sets are becoming obsolete, outsourced or overtaken by advances in AI. In fact, the World Economic Forum released a January 2019 study (Towards a Reskilling Revolution) that estimated if the US invested roughly $34 billion in reskilling approximately 1.4 million workers it could result in the up-leveling of those individuals to higher paid roles in areas of predicted need. This traditional vision of reskilling does make sense, but it’s still a linear move, rather than an exponential one.

The Value of Modern Reskilling

Work, technology and global workforce dynamics are changing: modern reskilling accounts for those changes as the evolved approach includes opportunities for retraining and continuous learning, while on the job and working from home. It includes teaching current employees how to wield other people’s skills to get work done using current methodologies such as crowdsourcing, as well as teaches companies how to better match tasks to available resources.

Modern reskilling is a more effective use of training investments for both the individual as well as organizations. Educators and businesses are investing in this strategy to drive the future of work because the technical expertise needed to just “keep up” can be hard to find. Modern reskilling transforms workforces from static collections of skill sets to flexible groups of people empowered to find innovative ways to get work done as quickly and effectively as possible.

People Fuel the Reskilling Revolution

The pandemic has further demonstrated how the passion (or “gig”) economy is the future of work. Instead of a top-down hierarchy that dictates employee tasks, in the gig economy, talented individuals choose the projects they work on and opt-in to the work that matters to them. Gig workers enjoy freedom, flexibility and community, and organizations have intelligently adopted a gig-approach for full and part time employees now working remotely.

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Are You Ready for a Fully Hybrid Model? Not Just Classes, But Everything

Investigating Virtual Learning Environments – Digital ...

By Jeff Elliott, director of product management, Jenzabar.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced colleges and universities into a remote learning model for the spring semester. Now, most institutions are considering innovative models for their fall semester, such as a mix of smaller, in-person classes and online courses. Because even an optimistic timeframe for a vaccine is more than a year away, these hybrid models will last long past 2020, forever changing the higher education landscape.

Support for Remote Workers is Vital

Much of the COVID discussion in higher education has centered around online learning, which is fitting since their purpose is to educate students. However, institutions have numerous departments that support the organization’s learning mission.

While online learning is not a new concept, with many institutions using it before the pandemic, remote working for staff was often just an occasional offering, not a full-time work-from-home model. Like other industries, a lot of higher education administrators believed that staff working in the same space was a driver for high productivity, especially for staff who worked directly with students. Yet, the spring 2020 semester has shown that location is not the only factor for staff output; technology, communication, and collaboration play immense roles.

With the pandemic, entire campuses must be able to support online capabilities. In addition to students, staff across admissions, advising, payroll, accounting, and other departments must be able to work from home. For example, Penn State recently stated that it will bring back staff in phases. The last group to return to campus will be employees who can fulfill work responsibilities remotely. Meanwhile, some employees may continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future.

While many higher education institutions already had remote capabilities possible for staff, others had to quickly adapt when physical locations were shut down in the spring. Many institutions were severely hampered with outdated operational models in which nearly everything was managed on-premises and could not easily transition online.

Engaging Students Outside of the Virtual Classroom

The difference between schools that thrive in the COVID era rather than muddle though is the ability to engage students outside of the virtual classroom. Communicating with students is crucial to their success, especially during these uncertain times.

Students want and need regular, relevant, and insightful communications. Schools should utilize a mix of email, text, and online chat solutions that students can access via their mobile devices.

Chatbots in particular can be highly advantageous as higher education becomes more digitalized. Institutions can help students combat anxiety brought about by COVID-19 by offering 24/7/365 access to services or personnel that can answer specific questions about health procedures, financial aid, event signups, and more.

Meanwhile, granting students the ability to register for classes, pay their bills, connect with advisors, manage academic plans, and more from anywhere at any time can help drive engagement and satisfaction.

While communication is critical, many students also learn and gain experience outside of the classroom. Positive interactions with fellow students and staff and participation in extracurricular programs can support long-term personal development. Institutions that can find ways to improve student engagement in these types of activities will see a much greater level of success.

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Bolstering School and Campus Safety Using Advanced Audio Solutions

By Bruce A. Canal, CPP, education segment development manager, Axis Communications

Bruce A. Canal

From kindergarten to college, when parents send their children to school, they do so with the expectation that those children will be kept safe. Schools have long employed security tools ranging from security cameras and access control to bolt locks and metal detectors, but today’s technology has put unprecedented new resources at schools’ disposal.

Analog cameras have been phased out in favor of network cameras, and tools like access control technology have helped secure entry points and facilitate frictionless entry for students and staff. But while video surveillance and physical security tools have received considerable attention, there is another resource being deployed to secure schools and campuses throughout the word: audio.

Advancements in Sound Detection Have Changed the Game

You might be surprised about how often a security incident is preceded by a noise of some sort. That noise might come in the form of raised voiced, breaking glass, or even gunshots. Any or all of those sounds may indicate that a security incident is either taking place or is about to take place.

Today’s audio solutions can be trained to listen for specific sounds and relay security alerts to the appropriate personnel or authorities almost as soon as they occur. In the case of raised voices, school personnel might be able to arrive in time to defuse a situation before it worsens. In the case of breaking glass or gunshots, response time is even more critical.

Audio solutions can also provide a valuable safeguard against break-ins. Sensors trained to listen for breaking glass, slamming doors, or other signs of after-hours activity can raise the alarm, even in pitch darkness. If activity is detected in the middle of the night, the appropriate personnel can be notified, potentially giving law enforcement a valuable head-start on catching the perpetrator.

Especially when paired with video surveillance solutions, advanced audio can help security teams better understand what is actually going on—whether the responsible party is a burglar, a vandal, or just a bored student hanging around the school entrance.

Announcements Can Both Deter Crime and Safeguard Students

Any student is no doubt well acquainted with intercom systems. When I was in school, they were mostly used to announce morning updates or call someone to the principal’s office, but today’s intercoms are considerably more advanced.

They can be programmed to broadcast emergency announcements targeted to specific zones, allowing tailored broadcasts to keep students and teachers informed during an emergency. The ability to relay real-time information where it is needed most can make a big difference in the midst of a major security incident.

These announcements also have the potential to deter crime from happening in the first place. Criminals are often emboldened by the idea that they won’t be caught. If you can shatter that illusion by letting them know that their presence has been detected, many will abandon ship.

Modern audio solutions can be programmed to play an audio message in the event that a trespasser is detected, warning them that they are being captured on camera, or that the authorities have been notified.

While this may have the effect of allowing them to flee before law enforcement can arrive, it is well worth it if it prevents valuables from being taken or property damaged. Some solutions may even allow a security guard to provide a live warning directly to the intruder, further informing them that they are under active surveillance.

A Comprehensive Approach to School and Campus Security

Modern audio solutions are an invaluable complement to today’s advanced video surveillance, access control, and other security technologies. Whether the school in question is an urban elementary school or a rural college campus, the ability to provide security teams with an accurate and up-to-the-minute representation of what is happening at key locations and entry points is of critical importance.

As schools and campuses throughout the world look for new and innovative ways to keep their students safe, today’s audio solutions will be an important piece of the puzzle in any comprehensive security solution.