How to Prevent a Ransomware Attack from Wreaking Havoc at Your School

Cyberattacks on educational institutions are becoming more and more common. Discover tried and proven ways of preventing such attacks now and in the future.  

School districts from Arizona to Connecticut have been targeted by ransomware attacks which encrypt files until the district pays the criminals to have them released. To make matters worse, even more schools could be targeted by this type of attack in the near future. The FBI recently noted that cyberattacks on schools are quite common as computer systems at educational institutions contain sensitive data and provide critical services that school administrators don’t want to see interrupted.

Thankfully, school administrators don’t have to passively accept cyberattacks. There are tried and proven ways to prevent criminals from accessing an educational institution’s computer system and causing untold damage by locking, destroying or leaking private data.

How to Prevent Cyberattacks

Any school employees who use school computers to work online should know the main ways in which ransomware attacks are caused and spread. These are:

  • Email phishing: This is the most common tactic used by cybercriminals in a ransomware attack. The criminals will send an email that looks like a legitimate message from a supervisor, fully expecting an employee to accept the message as legitimate and respond accordingly. You can limit or eliminate the damage these types of emails may cause by setting down rules mandating that employees double-check an email’s legitimacy by calling the supervisor who supposedly sent it in the first place.
  • Social media clickbait: It’s not uncommon for hackers to set up accounts in others’ names. This is done in the hope that someone will click on an account that he or she thinks belongs to a family member or colleague. The fake account can then infect the school computer system even if the person who visited it doesn’t click on anything on the page. For this reason, it’s important to caution employees to never visit social media sites on school computers.

Other important, tried and proven ways to prevent cyberattacks include setting up a two-factor authentication system for all school computers, ensuring anti-virus programs are continually updated and disabling unused remote desktop protocol ports.

Set up a Back-Up System

In April 2018, cybercriminals used ransomware to attack a Massachusetts school district, demanding a $10,000 ransom in bitcoin. The FBI advised the school district not to pay but the district did so anyway. The reason? The school district had absolutely no offsite backup and therefore no other way to recoup invaluable information.

The importance of a back-up system cannot be overstated. Cloud-based systems are ideal because they enable you to easily update your backed-up files on a regular basis. However, it is possible for a hacker to access your cloud storage if a password has been compromised and/or your cloud service provider doesn’t offer top of the line security. An offsite backup plan should be used in conjunction with a cloud-based storage system to ensure that important files aren’t lost in a ransomware attack.

Seeking Professional Help

Third-party IT services are popular with small and medium-sized businesses that need strong IT security, ongoing professional assistance and the best IT technology at a competitive price. However, these services aren’t just for the business world. There are third-party IT service providers who specialize in working with educational institutions. Some of the many benefits of outsourcing some or all of your IT department to a third-party service provider include:

  • Flexible, customizable IT solutions that can be continually adapted in accordance with student enrollment rates
  • The ability to select the services you need without paying for services that won’t benefit your school
  • 24/7 support from trained, experienced IT technicians who stay abreast of recent industry developments to offer the best possible assistance and advice
  • Improved management and monitoring of your computer network. This not only reduces the odds of a ransomware attack but also prevents common computer problems that make it difficult for teachers and administrators to do their jobs in an effective, efficient manner.

Network Outsource has more than twenty years of experience offering cutting-edge managed IT services to businesses, schools, NGOs and professional services in Long Island, New York City and New Jersey. Our collaborative approach to handling IT management enables us to adapt our amenities and services to meet any client’s needs at any given time. Our team of IT professionals has the skills, experience and resources needed to enable any educational institution to offer only the best IT services to staff members and students alike. Get in touch with us at your convenience to learn how we can help you not only prevent costly, damaging ransomware attacks but also improve your IT set-up to boost convenience and efficiency