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.