New report finds gaps in K-12 cloud security. Here’s how automation can help your district
New research by EdWeek Research Center and commissioned by ManagedMethods, identifies gaps in school district’s cloud security. These gaps are leaving student, staff, and financial data vulnerable.
A new survey analysis report, What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You, found that over 94% of K-12 schools use cloud applications, like Google Workspace and Microsoft 365. 56% of these respondents say they are confident that their cloud environments are private and secure. Yet, 50% of technology decision-makers and influencers either don’t have a cloud security platform or know if one exists.
The survey also uncovered some concerning misconceptions about what cloud security is and why schools need cloud-specific security measures in place to protect their data.
Beyond misconceptions about cloud security, district technology teams face a hurdle in the lack of resources to manage and remediate data security (and student safety) risks in their cloud applications.
And that is where cloud security automation comes into play.
Cloud security automation takes the pressure off IT teams by automating the mundane. Automated tools will continuously scan your district’s cloud apps for potential problems, alert your system admins to those problems, and then remediate the issue based on a set of defined policies.
For example, let’s say that a phishing email gets through your existing phishing filters (yes, it does happen…often). Your current phishing filters are likely sitting on the perimeter, which means that once that email (or emails) have broken through, those filters are useless. The email is sitting in your inboxes.
If you have implemented cloud security automation, it will continually scan your cloud-based emails, like Gmail and Outlook, and find those phishing emails in your users’ inboxes. It can then quickly perform several actions, depending on how it’s been configured, such as sending the email to a quarantine folder or deleting it from all email accounts.
Organizations, especially K-12 districts, don’t have the budget to do the scanning and remediation manually. Even if you had a group of spare employees, a human can’t do what automation can do when scanning data files 24/7/365.
Understanding Cloud Risks and Security
If you use collaborative cloud environments—and virtually all districts do—you need defined policies, controls, and technology to govern information exchanges that happen in them. That’s the definition of cloud application security.
Unfortunately, cloud cybersecurity is still overlooked by district leaders. One of the most harmful cloud security myths is that cloud providers offer complete cybersecurity. However, the shared responsibility models that host like Google and Microsoft use dictate that you, their customer, are responsible for securing access to your data stored in their application services.
Without a layer of cloud security in your cybersecurity infrastructure, you’re leaving your information vulnerable to:
- Data Breaches: Employees and students cause data breaches accidentally and sometimes intentionally. Cybercriminals cause intentional data breaches.
- Account Takeovers: Cybercriminals who take over valid user accounts and gain access to sensitive data can wreak havoc in your district.
- Loss of Computing Power: Ransomware attacks can hold a district hostage with no access to their systems. Over the past year, we’ve seen many examples of schools needing to cancel classes and spend excessive amounts of time and money to regain access to their computing power.
- Insecure SaaS Apps: The use of 3rd party edtech apps is growing at an alarming rate in K-12. Unfortunately, if the third-party app isn’t secure or malicious by design, it can become an easy gateway to your district’s systems and data.
6 Reasons Why Your IT Team Needs Cloud Security Automation
Given the risk level and the consequences that these cloud security gaps can cause, there is no shortage of reasons why your IT team needs cloud security automation. Here are the top six.
1. IT teams are wearing many hats, and cybersecurity tends to take a back seat
District budgets are tight, and the job market is making it tough to find qualified employees. In addition, most districts don’t have a dedicated cybersecurity specialist, so the responsibility is shared across the team.
But we all know that cybersecurity is one of those “invisible” problems (at least, until it’s not invisible any longer because you’ve become a victim of an attack). For that reason, it’s easier to put cybersecurity on the back burner when you have multiple “visible” fires to fight.
Further, when you’re occupied with fixing a down network or replacing parts in that broken Chromebook pile, it becomes practically impossible to respond to an active incident quickly enough to make the difference between a foiled cyberattack and a successful one.
2. Sooo many users, apps, endpoints. . . so little time!
Districts were already moving to the cloud before COVID-19. However, the pandemic dramatically increased that move, as well as the number of cloud apps being used, endpoints accessing your data, and users that needed to be trained, managed and supported.
Besides all that, your IT teams had to learn new things and navigate a dramatically changing world while addressing everything else on the list. It’s physically impossible to keep up with all of it without some automated assistance.
3. Minimize human error
Gartner estimates that up to 95% of cloud breaches are the result of human error. Automation can help mitigate the human error element of cloud security. Automation doesn’t make mistakes because it’s being pulled in a dozen different directions or because it was up all night with a sick kid and is now running on three hours of sleep.
Once it’s properly configured, all automation must do is scan for risks and follow the rules it’s been told to follow. So, automation plays a crucial role, whether it’s avoiding human error from within the IT team or reacting quickly to someone else’s mistake that is about to cause a data breach.
Of course, we all know that automation isn’t 100% foolproof itself. It needs to be appropriately configured and audited reasonably regularly to ensure it’s working as intended. But, it can certainly help reduce the number of errors in the system.
4. You need 24/7/365 security
Cloud security automation does the tasks it was created and configured to do all day, every day. It doesn’t take off at night or on weekends or holidays. These are precisely the times when cybercriminals love to target schools, by the way!
You know you don’t have the budget for a cybersecurity specialist. Think about trying to get approval for two or three specialists to cover the times when you’re most at risk.
5. Cloud security automation is an important part of zero trust security and defense-in-depth
Zero trust security is modern cybersecurity for modern school districts. The sooner your IT team moves away from over-reliance on firewalls, proxies, and on-prem LDAP authentication, the sooner you can be prepared to face the cyber threats posed by cloud applications.
Cloud applications like Google Workspace and Microsoft 365, and a host of other cloud apps are always on and available from every device and location. They’re a huge boon to schools. However, they also require IT teams to evolve and adopt new ways of addressing K-12 cybersecurity threats.
Zero trust and defense-in-depth strategies focus on securing your data, not just the perimeter of your network. It secures data against any network access, even if the access looks legitimate at the perimeter.
You can fill the gaps in your cybersecurity tech stack, which should start at the perimeter but not end there. And the more automation you can apply within your stack, the more secure your data will be. Include the following:
- Perimeter and network security
- Access security
- Data loss prevention
- Account behavior detection
6. You can integrate cloud security automation technology with student safety measures
Yep, that’s right. The technology for monitoring things like data loss prevention, phishing links, and account takeovers is similar to technology for monitoring things like cyberbullying, students plotting school violence, writing about hurting themselves, and sharing explicit images.
Some cloud security solutions (hint, hint) can even detect student safety signals in district cloud apps and send an alert with relevant information to the appropriate person to handle the incident.
Are you wondering whether you need to implement cloud security automation? If so, take advantage of our 30-day free cloud content and behavior security audit offer. You’ll get first-hand experience with an audit that will identify where you have gaps in your cloud security. Just prepare to be stunned by what you find out.