Cybercrime has become an incredibly lucrative way of making money for those with few scruples, and managers in every sector are learning that initiating cybersecurity measures is a necessity regardless of how much their business uses the internet. Staying up to date with the rapidly growing sophistication of cyber criminals requires constant vigilance rather than a one time solution and can be difficult, particularly for business owners who aren’t especially tech literate or are busy running their companies. Different sectors have responded to these threats with varying levels of success, but one institution that could be flagging behind the pack is the American education system.
According to a recent survey of tech leaders in the public school system, this issue is especially true of rural schools. This lack of preparedness with cybersecurity is a worrying trend, because while rural schools may be geographically isolated from major centers of crime, the global nature of the internet means that they’re just as an accessible target as their urban and suburban siblings. The latest survey indicates that urban administrators are far more likely to consider cybersecurity a pressing concern and thus to have begun implementing security procedures like password management policies. In urban schools, 82 percent of administrators consider cybersecurity a concern in comparison to 64 percent of their rural counterparts.
Part of this difference can be boiled down to access. The more sophisticated and concentrated infrastructure of busy cities mean that more urban districts have access to WiFi internet, but that’s rapidly changing. Today, 98 percent of K-12 American public schools have access to WiFi connectivity. The bigger issue could be cultural. Less than half of rural schools say they have concrete and widely followed password management policies, and that could be because the teachers and administrators in these systems don’t see their schools as a target. They question why personal information in their less populated schools would be something of value to hackers while failing to recognize that their lack of security makes them much softer targets, and for teachers that are overworked and underpaid, one more policy rule to follow can seem like a heavy and unnecessary burden. That’s doubly true when you account for the fact that these smaller schools often can’t justify the cost of hiring a dedicated IT manager.
Ultimately, these rural school districts are going to have to reconsider what cybersecurity means. It’s not an inconvenience or added red tape for the sake of nothing. Cybersecurity protects the data of their students in the same way that security offers ensure their physical safety. And if the data leaks of the past few years are any indication, this sort of threat is only going to become more prevalent as time goes on.