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Top Challenges School Network Administrators Need to Address

School network administrators must protect student data in public-facing networks with many potential access points. They must also keep the information safe without disrupting student and teacher access to educational resources – and on very limited budgets. Here’s what school network administrators are up against this year.

Limited Resources in the Face of Expanding Demand

School budgets are already tight, competing with other public organizations and services for funds. But in recent years, technology budgets have been stretched more and more thin as cybersecurity risks rise and more technology devices are implemented into regular classroom and student use. Providing these resources and protecting the networks they use can be a daunting challenge.

To maximize your resources as effectively as possible, network administrators can:

  1. Perform a network assessment to better understand security vulnerabilities.
  2. Maintain documentation of their network infrastructure to maintain awareness of device lifecycles
  3. Consider simplifying the network using cloud resources
  4. Review WLAN infrastructure for ways to improve its service delivery
  5. Get rid of outdated hardware and standardize introduce standardizing of routers and switches over time as budget allows — not everything has to happen all at once.
  6. Prioritize security when making your budget case, not just on the network but at every level. Make the case for items that maximize security and student impact.

A Rise in Cyberattacks

Cyberattacks have been worsening in the education sector, with schools being one of the primary targets for ransomware attacks. According to Malwarebytes, there was an alarming 92% surge in K-12 attacks between 2022-2023.

As technology takes a more prominent role in education, the attack surface for hackers increases – from your network and endpoints to students’ own iPads or smartphones.

Ransomware attacks are not just disruptive and costly to school districts (causing school shutdowns and disruption of student learning and routine), they also carry much higher risk. Hackers may even threaten to publish sensitive data — like student medical histories, academic performance and disciplinary records — if a payment is not made.

To combat this threat, school network administrators must prioritize safeguarding student data and access to school systems to prevent costly and dangerous disruptions.

Vendor Risk Management

Security measures can only do so much if a school’s many vendors leave it vulnerable to supply chain attacks.

For instance, a high school may have a vendor it uses for its student information system (SIS). An attacker could target the vendor via a phishing assault, stealing access credentials from an internal user. The attacker could then use this access to infect the system with malware that scrapes student data from its server.

Then, as teachers and other school personnel enter student data, the attacker steals this information and uses it to extort money from the school district. Of course, the threat extends to other kinds of vendors as well. Anyone who gets access to your network could try to exploit a vulnerability.

To combat this threat, school network administrators can implement specific security practices, including:

  • Carefully vetting out vendor security practices
  • Formalizing evaluation criteria and cybersecurity standards for all vendors who will have access to your network
  • Perform ongoing auditing to ensure continuous compliance with the standards established
  • Investing in ongoing security monitoring to detect data exfiltration, malware, and other threats
  • Auditing the network to identify potential weaknesses before attackers try to exploit them
  • Leveraging a managed security provider to help develop the framework and documentation you need for a more robust security system

School network administrators face challenging demands. TPx specializes in managed IT services for school systems to lighten the load. Get in touch with our experts to learn more about how we can support your cybersecurity, network, and more.

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