How K-12 School Leaders Can Plan for Better Cybersecurity Next Year 

While the 2021-2022 school year returned to “normal,” many district leaders acknowledge that it wasn’t a typical school year, even though in-person learning resumed for many. In addition to the challenges associated with the pandemic, K-12 districts also had an influx of cybersecurity attacks.   

Lightspeed Systems® brought together a panel of experts to discuss trends educators and administrators can expect in the coming school year. And cybersecurity for schools was a top trend. The edtech leaders shared key takeaways on cybersecurity and what steps K-12 schools can take to secure their networks next year and beyond. 

K-12 cybersecurity trends that will continue next year

Surveys show that cybersecurity remains top of mind for IT professionals and school district CIOs. Many K-12 IT leaders know that schools are, unfortunately, an easy target for hackers.  

According to Steven Langford, Chief Information Officer for the Beaverton School District in Beaverton, Oregon, schools possess a wealth of data and many lack the resources to contain or monitor that information the way private companies do. That makes school districts an appealing, vulnerable target for hackers. 

Langford gives an example of a DDoS attack that nearly shut down Beaverton’s network on the first day of statewide testing. Eventually, it was discovered the attack had been purchased by students for only $50. When a cyberattack against a school can be purchased so cheaply, there’s concern this will be an issue for schools going forward. Langford also pointed out more sophisticated organizations can initiate even more effective, powerful attacks than the one purchased against his school.  

Mitigate the risks of your K-12 school falling victim to a cyberattack

The increasing ease of launching a cyberattack should make addressing network security a priority for K-12 schools. 

Langford said the first thing schools can do to protect themselves from cyberattacks is to look at available resources—including, Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and Center for Internet Security (CIS)—to see how their district can align with the recommendations from those agencies.   

Another strategy to safeguard your school is to perform an audit.  

During the upheaval of remote learning caused by COVID-19, it’s possible that the IT safeguards your school had in place were overlooked. Teachers and administrators, trying to ensure that learning continued under extremely trying circumstances, may have downloaded new software and apps outside of IT processes, vendor assessments, and security vulnerability scans. 

Performing a risk assessment can help you address this and is a good step to protect your school’s network against cybercrime. Mike Baur, who works within the education technology vertical at Amazon Web Services (AWS) advised schools ask themselves these questions when conducting an audit: 

  • What does your system look like?
  • What is your infrastructure?
  • What companies are you working with from an edtech perspective and how well are they operating with each other?

Another way districts can protect themselves is through cybersecurity insurance. But if you are considering insurance, it might be a good idea to move fast: insurance companies are raising expectations for what conditions they’ll accept. This can even be true for districts that already have cybersecurity insurance and are looking to renew.  

Finally, having a cybersecurity plan is crucial. This includes: 

  • Ensuring your leadership team has a mitigation plan  
  • Knowing how to engage with local authorities immediately in the event of a suspected breach 
  • Planning how and what to communicate to parents and other stakeholders if there’s a cyberattack  

A good framework to build your school’s cybersecurity plan can be found by taking the plans and processes your district already has in place for emergencies and using them as a model for a chain of command and communication protocols during a cybersecurity incident.  

Further Reading

screenshots on desktop and mobile devices for distance learning software

Here's a demo, on us

Still doing your research?
Let us help! Schedule a free demo with one of our product experts to get all of your questions answered quickly.

man sitting at desk on laptop looking at Lightspeed Filter dashboard

Welcome back!

Looking for pricing information for our solutions?
Let us know about your district’s requirements and we’ll be happy to build a custom quote.

Reimagine the inspired and interactive classroom for remote, hybrid, and in-person learning. Lightspeed Classroom Management™ gives teachers real-time visibility and control of their students’ digital workspaces and online activity.

  • Ensure all students interact with only the right online curriculum — precisely when they’re supposed to use it.
  • Push out vetted curriculum links to all students at the same time.
  • Block inappropriate or distracting web sites and apps.

Ensure scalable & efficient learning device management. The Lightspeed Mobile Device Management™ system ensures safe and secure management of student learning resources with real-time visibility and reporting essential for effective distance learning.

  • A centralized, cloud-based solution for infinitely scalable device, application, and policy controls
  • Self-Service App Library, where teachers and students
    can access and install approved curriculum and learning tools
  • Remotely deploy, change, and revoke hundreds of policies and educational applications, while reducing typical downtime and costs

Prevent suicides, cyberbullying, and schoolviolence. Lightspeed Alert™ supports district administrators and selected personnel with advanced AI to detect and report potential threats before it’s too late.

  • Human review
  • Real-time alerts that flag signs of a potential threat
  • Intervene quickly before an incident occurs.
  • Activity logs provide visibility into online activity before and after a flagged event

Protect students from harmful online content. Lightspeed Filter™ is the best-in-class solution that acts as a solid barrier to inappropriate or illicit online content to ensure students’ online safety 24/7.

  • Powered by the most comprehensive database in the industry built through 20 years of web indexing and machine learning.
  • Ensure CIPA compliance
  • Block millions of inappropriate, harmful, and unknown sites, images, and video including YouTube
  • Keep parents informed with the Lightspeed Parent Portal™

Gain complete visibility into students’ online learning. Lightspeed Analytics™ gives districts robust data on the effectiveness of any tools they implement so they can take a strategic approach to their technology stack and streamline reporting.

  • Track education technology adoption and usage trends, eliminate redundancy, and drive ROI
  • Monitor app and content consumption to facilitate early adoption and effective utilization
  • Assess risk with visibility into student data privacy and security compliance