With the surge in remote learning and the abundance of sensitive data stored online, educational institutions have become prime targets for cybercriminals. In a 2022 survey, 80% of school IT professionals said they’d been hit with a ransomware attack just in the last year. These attacks wriggle their way past defenses and can cause anything from minor headaches to catastrophic data loss.
One of the best preventative measures against these attacks is conducting a thorough cybersecurity risk assessment. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process and highlight the critical steps you need to take to safeguard your school.
How to Conduct a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment in 8 Steps
A cybersecurity risk assessment is an ongoing process—not a one-time event—that involves regular updates to keep your defenses robust and ready against evolving threats. If you want to get a better idea of what a risk assessment would look like, here are eight foundational steps:
1. Establish a Risk Assessment Team
To kick start the process, assemble a team of individuals responsible for assessing and managing cybersecurity risks within your school. Define roles and responsibilities clearly to ensure a smooth workflow.
2. Define the Scope and Objectives
Set clear objectives and goals for your risk assessment. What are you trying to protect? What are the potential consequences of a breach? Identifying these factors will help you tailor your assessment to your school’s specific needs.
3. Asset Inventory and Classification
Identify and document all the digital and physical assets within your school. This includes everything from student records and financial data to computers and network infrastructure. Properly classifying these assets helps you prioritize their protection.
4. Threat Identification
Identify potential threats and vulnerabilities that could compromise the security of your school’s assets. This step involves considering both external and internal threats, such as hackers, disgruntled employees, or system failures.
5. Vulnerability Assessment
Evaluate your school’s existing security measures, including firewalls, antivirus software, and access controls. Determine their effectiveness and identify any weaknesses or gaps in your defenses.
6. Risk Analysis
Once you have identified threats, vulnerabilities, and the potential impact of a cybersecurity incident, conduct a risk analysis. This involves quantifying the likelihood and impact of various scenarios to prioritize mitigation efforts.
7. Risk Mitigation and Remediation
Develop a comprehensive plan to mitigate identified risks. Implement security measures, policies, and procedures to reduce vulnerabilities and enhance your school’s cybersecurity posture.
8. Monitoring and Continuous Improvement
Cyber threats are continually evolving—regularly monitor your school’s cybersecurity landscape, update your risk assessment, and refine your mitigation strategies to stay ahead of potential threats.
How Often Should You Complete a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment?
As mentioned earlier, cybersecurity risk assessments should be an ongoing process. It is recommended to conduct a full assessment at least once a year or whenever there are significant changes in your school’s technology, such as new hardware or software systems.
Additionally, regular monitoring and updating of risk assessments should occur throughout the year to ensure that your school’s defenses are up-to-date with the latest cyber threats.
Get Expert Cybersecurity Advice From ANC Group
For schools looking to bolster their cybersecurity defenses, partnering with experts is a smart move. ANC Group offers vulnerability testing and penetration testing services to help educational institutions identify and address vulnerabilities proactively.
In today’s digital age, protecting your school from cyber threats is non-negotiable. By conducting a comprehensive cybersecurity risk assessment and taking proactive steps to mitigate risks, you can create a safe and secure environment for your students and staff while safeguarding sensitive data.
Don’t wait for a cybersecurity incident to strike; start protecting your school today with help from ANC Group.