With the onset of the pandemic, education changed. K-12 schools and higher education institutions ushered in remote learning, accommodated the influx of internet-connected devices, worked to safeguard the data of students, teachers, and administrators from an increasing number of cyberattacks, and more. 

Today, the education industry is still feeling the effects of the many changes. Current statistics — the good and the bad — are a snapshot of where the education industry stands today and where it can improve in the near future to strengthen its cybersecurity posture. 

Here are ten cybersecurity statistics on the education industry that may or may not surprise you, as well as helpful resources for your school:

Education is a top sector for cyberattacks

According to Check Point Research, the education/research sector was the most targeted in 2021, with an average of 1,605 cyberattacks per week, up 75% from 2020.  

Education organizations have been hit hard the past few years with COVID-19 restrictions, remote learning, funding concerns, and more. They can now add ransomware attacks and data breaches to that list. Like many challenges the education sector faces, the problem comes down to a lack of resources. 

Schools are starting to get the cybersecurity help they need, and many are turning to managed detection and response (MDR).  The Joplin School District wanted to improve its cybersecurity posture to be more proactive against cyber threats. See why Pondurance MDR was the right fit for them and how we can help your school in this case study, Joplin School District Improves their Cybersecurity Posture with Managed Detection & Response.

More than 1,000 schools experienced a ransomware attack

In 2021, ransomware attacks affected 1,043 individual schools across 62 school districts and 26 colleges and universities, according to Emsisoft. Sensitive data from employees and students was stolen and released online in 44 of the 88 attacks.

How can schools and universities protect their data and protect against ransomware attacks? Security solutions, like MDR, can help your school defend its data and protect against cyberattacks. With so many solutions in the market, it can be hard to determine the right fit for your organization. What should you look for when selecting an MDR provider? Get started with our eBook, What Schools Should Consider When Choosing a Managed Detection and Response (MDR) Provider

Schools are most likely to pay a ransom demand

Sophos’ The State of Ransomware 2022 report shows that K-12 education was the sector with the highest rate of ransom payouts in 2021 at 53%. The state and local government sector ran a close second place at 49%. However, only 2% of education institutions that paid the ransom ended up getting all their data back. 

Ransomware attacks are not a new threat. But the education sector, from K-12 to higher education, continues to be a prime target for cybercriminals. How do schools avoid attacks like ransomware and paying high ransom fees to recover their data? A comprehensive cybersecurity plan. Watch our webinar, Improving The Cybersecurity Posture For Education Institutions, to learn more about formulating your school’s cybersecurity program and the importance of risk analysis. 

The average cost of a data breach decreased in 2021

The cost of a data breach in the education industry averaged $3.86 million, according to IBM Security’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2022. That’s up from $3.79 million in 2020, though education still remains one of the top 10 industries for average total cost.

Your goal is to keep your students and faculty safe from cyberattacks. Data breaches cost millions of dollars in damages and put your data and the data of your organization’s members at risk. Learn how unpatched vulnerabilities can impact your school in this podcast, K-12 Tech Talk: Reviewing An Incident with the Department of Education Website.

Higher education has one of the slowest recovery times

In 2021, 40% of victims in the higher education sector took longer than one month to recover from a cyberattack, according to the Sophos report. In contrast, only 10% of manufacturing and production companies that experienced a cyberattack took more than one month to recover. 

IT professionals struggle with both the financial and operational burdens ransomware puts on its victims, and colleges and universities are particularly challenged as repercussions of ransomware hit them harder and longer than other organizations. But there are security solutions, like MDR, that can help your school defend its data and protect against cyberattacks. Learn more about MDR services and if Pondurance is the right fit for your organization in this whitepaper, What Schools Should Consider When Choosing a Managed Detection and Response (MDR) Provider.

Phishing is perceived as the greatest cyber threat for school districts

In a Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) survey, 84% of school district IT leaders did not rate a single cyber threat as high risk. However, of all the types of cyber incidents facing schools, phishing was seen as the greatest threat.

Phishing is a common attack vector utilized by countless cybercriminals. Nowadays, phishing scams are sophisticated and can fool the wariest users if their guard is let down for even a second. Bad actors take time to research the school district and launch targeted spear-phishing and business email compromise attacks to gain access. Learn more about cyber threats schools face and how to combat them in this blog: K-12 School Districts and the Cybersecurity Challenge

More internet-connected devices are used in schools

The CoSN survey showed that the number of school districts supporting more than 7,500 devices increased in 2021. As much as 49% of school districts supported more than 7,500 devices in 2021 compared to only 33% in 2020. 

Although IoT devices have brought many benefits to the education sector, they come with just as many security challenges. Regularly updating your software and installing antivirus software are two simple ways to improve your cybersecurity posture. Training students and faculty on the warning signs of a cyberattack is also key. Download this checklist for the top five tips for back-to-school safety: Back to School – Keep Students and Teachers Safe Online

A large majority of school districts will require cybersecurity training for staff

The EdTech Leadership Survey Report shows that 74% of school districts require or plan to require cybersecurity training for staff. In 2021, half of school districts required training.

One way to help reduce your organization’s chances of a cyberattack is to train your staff to provide security awareness training. How can you start? There are some telltale signs and best practices to be aware of that can help prevent phishing attempts from being successful. To get you started, check out our Employee Security Awareness Checklist.

Nearly one-third of districts do not have a cloud security platform

In an EdWeek Research Center study, researchers found that 30% of K-12 school districts have no cloud security platform in place to protect and monitor the data stored in those cloud applications. 

The advantages of cloud operating models are vast but also come with challenges like complexity and risk. Utilizing a cloud strategy requires expertise. Due to the expanded attack surface created by a cloud environment, it can be difficult to secure it without the right people, processes, and technology in place. But don’t worry, help is out there! Check out our blog, Pondurance Innovations and Integrations for Cloud Security, to learn how Pondurance can help you secure your cloud environment. 

Over half of all school districts do not have a cybersecurity plan

The CoSN survey found that cybersecurity ranks as a top priority for school district IT leaders. However, approximately 59% of districts do not have a cybersecurity plan in place, 77% do not have a full-time employee dedicated to cybersecurity, and only 54% are monitoring for cyberattacks in real time.

The consequences of a cyberattack are damaging to any organization, but schools and universities also risk impacting students’ and faculty’s personal information, research data, and financial information. Not to mention that this information can be held for ransom, impacting operations. With so many cyberattacks in the education sector, it’s essential to have an incident response (IR) plan in place to identify, prevent, and respond to threats. Learn the importance of an IR plan and how to get started in this blog, How to be Resilient Against Cyberattacks With Incident Response (IR).

These statistics highlight some of the challenges that the education industry continues to face. Industry leaders can use these statistics and resources both as a pat on the back and as lessons learned to make cybersecurity improvements for the future of K-12 schools and colleges and universities across the country. 

Learn how Pondurance Managed Detection and Response services can integrate with the team and technology at your K-12 school district or higher education institution to strengthen your cybersecurity posture and protect against cyber threats.