Cybercriminals Are Targeting Your Students. Stop Them with Penetration Testing Services

A young boy does school work on a tablet

Education and technology have become inseparable. As students and parents expect more flexibility and accessibility from their learning solutions, schools and universities have been tasked with providing them just that. With a greater digital footprint, educational institutions become an attractive target for cybercriminals.

These malicious actors are not only after sensitive student and staff data but also aim to disrupt learning environments—chaos and financial loss are primary goals. The alarming truth is that schools are not as secure as they may think.

The need to shift from a purely defensive mindset to an offensive one has never been more critical. Here’s how penetration testing services can be a game-changer in securing educational institutions and thwarting cyber threats.

Are Cybercriminals Targeting Schools?

Recent statistics show a concerning rise in cyberattacks on educational institutions. Not only are the attacks against schools rising but technology used in schools as a whole is becoming a more lucrative target.

In March of 2022, the widely-used ed-tech company Illuminate Education, which schools use to track student progress, was hacked. Records that labeled students with things like “homeless,” “perpetrator,” and “intellectual disability” were leaked. The hack affected thousands of students in the New York school system.

Because of the sensitive nature of the data your school may be storing, cybercriminals see your institution as an opportunity for big money.

Shifting from a Defensive to Offensive Mindset

Traditionally, schools have focused on adopting a defensive cybersecurity approach. They invest in firewalls, antivirus software, and other security measures to prevent potential threats from breaching their networks. While these measures are necessary, relying solely on them can be harmful due to several reasons.

Firstly, cybercriminals are continually evolving, and their tactics are becoming more sophisticated. Relying on static defense mechanisms may leave schools vulnerable to new and emerging threats. 

Secondly, educational institutions often overlook potential security gaps and vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit. This reactive approach to security can lead to dire consequences.

The answer lies in embracing a proactive and offensive cybersecurity strategy. One of the most effective ways to do this is through regular penetration testing services, commonly known as pen testing.

What Is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing is a controlled, simulated cyberattack on a school’s network, applications, and systems. It is conducted by certified ethical hackers who “copy” the tactics used by cybercriminals to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the school’s infrastructure.

By taking this proactive approach, schools can better understand their security posture and address any potential weaknesses before malicious hackers can exploit them.

How Does Penetration Testing Work?

The pen testing process involves several stages, including reconnaissance, scanning, exploitation, and reporting. Ethical hackers use a combination of automated tools and manual techniques to evaluate the school’s security posture comprehensively.

What Are the Three Main Areas of Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing typically focuses on three main areas:

  1. Internal Penetration Test: In this test, the ethical hackers attempt to breach the school’s internal network by mimicking an attack that could happen from within the institution. This helps identify risks from insider threats or compromised devices.
  2. External Penetration Test: Here, the focus is on identifying vulnerabilities in the school’s external-facing systems, such as servers and public-facing websites.
  3. Web Application Penetration Test: Web applications are often targeted by cybercriminals. This test evaluates the security of web-based systems used by the school, such as portals and online platforms.

How Often Should Pen Testing Be Done?

Penetration testing should be conducted regularly and whenever significant changes are made to the school’s network or systems. This ensures that new vulnerabilities are not introduced and that existing security measures remain effective.

“Regularly” will depend on many factors, including the size of your school and the industry regulations you must adhere to. In general, it is recommended that schools conduct at least one full pen test every year and also incorporate periodic tests to identify any emerging vulnerabilities.

How Does Penetration Testing Protect Your School?

Why would you want to use penetration testing services? Here are a few of the benefits pen testing can bring to your institution:

  1. Identifying Vulnerabilities: Pen testers thoroughly assess the school’s network and systems to uncover potential vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit.
  2. Strengthening Security Measures: By highlighting weak points, schools can enhance their security measures and policies to create a more robust defense against cyber threats.
  3. Compliance and Regulations: Many educational institutions are required to comply with data protection and privacy regulations. Regular pen testing helps schools meet these requirements and demonstrate their commitment to data security.

Fix Your Weaknesses with Help from ANC Group

For schools looking to safeguard their students, staff, and data, partnering with a reputable penetration testing service provider like ANC Group is a wise decision. ANC Group specializes in working with educational institutions and understands the unique cybersecurity challenges they face.

With ANC Group’s specialized penetration testing services, educational institutions can fortify their defenses, protect sensitive data, and ensure a safe digital learning environment for students and staff. Embracing proactive cybersecurity measures will undoubtedly help schools stand strong against the relentless work of cybercriminals.

Schedule a free assessment to see how ANC Group can help your institution.