Fill gaps in your cybersecurity tech stack to meet today’s challenges

How would you feel if you were in charge of IT when a hacker stole $2 million? What would your reaction be if a cybercriminal held your district’s systems hostage and you had to pay them $10,000? Would you be happy if your state’s U.S. Senator had to ask for Federal aid to fight a cyberattack that disrupted your school district?

A 2019 K-12 cybersecurity review shows that all of those cyberattacks—and more—happened last year. If your district hasn’t experienced an attack yet, you’re lucky. K-12 cybersecurity is getting more complicated as time goes on.

  • Your district is storing increasing amounts of sensitive data
  • You’re increasing your use of different types of technology, including more endpoints and EdTech software
  • K-12 institutions are the second most targeted industry segment (behind local government)
  • Education is ranked last in cybersecurity preparedness compared to 17 major industries

Given these facts, it’s critical that you make sure there are no gaps in your cybersecurity tech stack.

What is a Cybersecurity Tech Stack?

The term cybersecurity tech stack refers to the tools, technologies, platforms, and vendors you use to manage cybersecurity in your school district. Different organizations need different cybersecurity tech stack configurations based on their IT infrastructure—and their needs for risk and compliance management. These tools form layers of protection, giving rise to the term cybersecurity tech stack.

In the business world, cybersecurity tech stacks can easily get out of control. CISOs are using over 300 products provided by 57 vendors. This is untenable for the business world—and downright impossible for school districts given the lack of funding, small IT departments, and limited cybersecurity know-how.

As a result, many K-12 district leaders believe that building a cybersecurity tech stack is too complicated, too costly, and out of reach. As an alternative, some leaders have decided to rely almost entirely on cyber insurance instead of investing in security. But cyber insurance can’t replace cybersecurity.

If you focus on a prioritized list of your district’s specific requirements, investing in cybersecurity doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive.

Step 1: Identify Your District’s Cyber Risk Profile

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The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a NIST cybersecurity framework to share information on cybersecurity threats and create a framework for reducing cybersecurity risks. NIST developed the framework in partnership with other government agencies, private sector industries, and educational institutions. The first step that it recommends is to conduct a risk assessment. Your risks might include:

  • Physical security: Securing the information on hard drives, devices, servers, etc.
  • Intrusion prevention: Examples include phishing, malware, ransomware, and account takeover
  • Data loss prevention: Data loss prevention must account for accidental and malicious activities
  • Detection, mitigation, and response: Plans need to be tested, implemented, and maintained

Simply using firewalls and content filters are not enough for most contemporary school districts to secure sensitive district business, student, and staff data. This is because K-12 cyber risks have changed drastically in the past few years. Your risk profile should reflect your district’s IT structure and will be different depending on a number of factors, including whether:

  • You store data in G Suite or Office 365 (or other cloud-based storage)
  • Your teachers and/or administrative staff are using 3rd party SaaS vendors
  • You have a 1:1 and/or BYOD program in your school district

cybersecurity infrastructure for K-12Step 2: Organize Your Cybersecurity Infrastructure

Your cybersecurity infrastructure includes not only technology, but also the strategy, plans, people, and training required to secure information systems. It will be multi-layered, but it shouldn’t be overwhelming. Set it up to meet the needs you identified in Step 1 and it won’t get out of hand. Be sure to cover the following six categories:

  • Infrastructure Security: Protect the systems underlying your IT system. If you’re operating in the cloud, your cloud vendor is responsible for most of this protection. For on-prem infrastructure, use internal staff or a managed service provider to handle security
  • Identity and Access Authentication: Ensure that you can accurately restrict access to only those users who can be authenticated
  • Endpoint Security: Secure all devices that access your network, including computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and on-prem servers
  • Network Security: Secure all underlying connections and interactions between all endpoints that connect to your network
  • Cloud Security: Protect the information stored, accessed, and shared in the cloud. Cloud vendors are responsible for the infrastructure security, while you will need to secure information stored in the cloud applications themselves
  • Incident Management and Response: Integrate incident management and response into your overall cybersecurity infrastructure

 

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Step 3: Build Your Cybersecurity Tech Stack

Traditionally, cybersecurity is focused on defense at the perimeter. But, in today’s distributed and accessible environment, the focus of your cybersecurity tech stack should be on data security. This change is largely due to districts’ use of Google G Suite and Microsoft Office 365, as well as other web and cloud-based EdTech. Therefore, your cybersecurity tech stack should start, but not end, at the perimeter.

  • Perimeter and Network Security: This protection includes firewalls and next-gen firewalls. Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) is also required at your email gateways.
  • Access Security: Users access your systems in a variety of ways and you need to manage those endpoints. Use access-control management tools, including Single Sign-On (SSO) solutions, password management, and authentication.
  • Data Loss Prevention: Start by categorizing your data to identify the types of data you collect and store. You can then create and manage policies that assign appropriate security controls to each category. Finally, ensure that you put DLP monitoring technology in place to identify and remediate risks.
  • Account Behavior Detection: You need the technology to identify anomalous behavior within your perimeter. For example, a monitor that detects lateral phishing activity can alert you to the fact that hackers have likely breached your systems.

Cyberattacks can affect students, parents, staff, and teachers. Attacks can cost the district money and tarnish its reputation. No one wants to be in charge when a cyberattack hits. Take action to ensure that your cybersecurity infrastructure and tech stack are ready to protect your systems. It will help you avoid being caught in the middle if a hacker decides to target your district. Get started today with a free cybersecurity risk assessment by ManagedMethods!

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