The Importance of Network Security in Schools
The task of keeping a business network secure can be a daunting one, full of its own challenges and setbacks. Now imagine the added complexities of network security when the organization involved is a school or university. Education has become a prime target for cyber attackers. According to one security institution, 15% of all recorded security breaches have occurred at an educational facility. The number of incidents are on the rise as well. 2012 had the highest number of cases of compromised records in higher education since 2006. With these incidents on the rise and attackers more willing than ever to go after schools, the importance of network security for education cannot be overstated.
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Schools and universities face a number of challenges that businesses and other organizations don't have to encounter. Whereas companies have their employees to monitor and grant access to, schools have to worry about teachers and students, who can range anywhere from five-year-olds to full adults. In the case of schools with young children, those kids often don't have the same legal obligations or face the same legal ramifications if they should, intentionally or accidentally, access a network without authorization. Students also tend to not understand the security threats out there related to the internet and are more likely to use unsecured networks, download infected files, or expose devices to malware. School structure can also be a major problem, with many institutions of higher learning using a decentralized approach that creates multiple networks that need protection. Schools are also dealing with students bringing more of their own mobile devices to class, which itself can present many security issues. Couple all these challenges with shrinking budgets, and it's easy to see how things can quickly get out of control. All of this underscores the need for an effective network security strategy.
For many schools, network security isn't just an option, it's a necessity. We're long past the days where each classroom had a single computer; students now regularly have smartphones and tablets. Online access has also turned into a crucial tool for learning. To make sure important school data and files are protected, administrators need a stable security environment, which is where network security comes in. A well-managed network security system will feature measures where administrators can efficiently control and monitor what students and teachers access while online. While web filters can certainly play a role in restricting certain websites, network security can go much further by taking a more proactive approach in monitoring online activity and blocking sites that may lead to security compromises.
This blocking action can go beyond the internet. Mobile devices have shown to be a major source for malware, and oftentimes, students will be using an infected device without even knowing it. Network security, often through network access control, can detect when a device has been infected. When this happens, the device is then blocked from connecting to the network and alerts IT about the infection. IT workers can then go and clean the infected part of the device, which not only protects the network but the user as well. Network security systems can also be robust and flexible, allowing for various types of devices to connect provided they're able to pass the standards set by administrators.
A good network security system found in schools will feature other security measures such as anti-virus protection, firewalls, encryption, password protection, and the latest upgrades and patches. All of these allow administrators to better monitor individual devices and authenticate them for use on the network. This evaluation before a device is granted access can be crucial for preventing attacks on network systems. With so many sensitive records and files, administrators need to know exactly who and what is accessing the network, which is why network access control is such a vital part of network security.
Securing educational networks is not something that should be treated lightly. Security breaches aren't a rare thing anymore, which can be seen by the more than 650,000 student records that were compromised a couple years ago at the University of Nebraska. Schools and universities that recognize the threats and the damage they can cause will be in a better position to protect their teachers and students. As more and more come to realize the importance of network security, they'll be able to respond quickly to future attacks and threats.
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