Top Three Tips for Cybersecurity in Education

Over the past few years, the education sector has become an increasingly popular target for malware and ransomware attacks. In fact, just in August 2022, over 80% of the world’s malware attacks targeted organizations in the education sector1. The combined lack of progress in security measures and the amount of valuable personal data necessary for school board operations has made the sector look like an easy win for threat actors. And they are not wrong, in 2021, 74% of ransomware attacks in the education sector succeeded2.  

As a new school year begins, it’s time to start fresh and build up a more secure cyber security system for students and staff. In this blog, we will walk through our top three tips for protecting these valuable assets in the education sector. 

The Ramifications of Attacks in Education

In recent months, data breaches have impacted thousands of students across North America. They are taking a toll on the finances and reputations of both k-12 and higher education institutions.  

There are several ways these attacks affect educational institutions. First, cybercriminals often steal personal data because it is highly valuable on the dark web. Additionally, there may be medical, scientific or regulatory machinery that is vulnerable to tampering. These machines can be used in valuable scientific studies, for medical trials or for regulatory operations like attendance or access to student housing. 

Finally, one of the major problems for school boards is ransomware which has become quite common in this industry. In these instances, school districts are required to pay a ransom to get access to their highly sensitive data including children’s addresses and contact information or risk it becoming public information. Due to the sensitive nature of the data, school boards and educational institutions are highly motivated to pay the ransom.  

Unfortunately, the risk for the education sector is large and growing. School Boards and private institutions need to start taking cybersecurity seriously or risk serious consequences.  

Top Tips for Cybersecurity in Education

Luckily, schools and other educational institutions can protect themselves from cybercriminals, even with limited budgets and rapidly changing environments. Here are our top tips: 

  1. Ensure flexibility within your security program

One of the main challenges with cybersecurity in education is that you can’t lock institutions down. The education sector needs flexible and dynamic security frameworks to grow with them. With fluctuating staff and student numbers, frequently changing technologies on campus and the adoption of thousands of new student devices, schools cannot afford to be restricted by ten-year security contracts or fixed assets.  

Educational institutions need a collaborative and modular approach to cybersecurity like the Difenda Shield that can adapt to its changing environment.  

  1. Make the move to cloud-based security

Cloud-based solutions offer the flexibility schools need. They enable scalability, have multiple storage options, allow for greater controls, and provide increased features that allow your system to evolve over time.  

Many school boards are still hesitant to make the transition to the cloud for two reasons: quality education and finances. But an important benefit of cloud-based solutions like Microsoft is that it has the power to enable personalized, collaborative, and immersive learning experiences using technology. Students and teachers are better able to share documents, communicate online and work together with Microsoft 3653. Not only that but, cloud-based security solutions can help you save on operational budgets, traditional equipment, and resources like servers and maintenance. 

  1. Take advantage of automation capabilities where possible  

With so much activity on the attack surface of educational institutions, it is important to take advantage of automation wherever possible to better protect your environment. Automation capabilities allow your organization to identify and respond to threats quicker with automated processes that proactively alert key members of your security teams, ingest data, coordinate responses, and make remediations. 

Proactive Preparation

Although no one can determine exactly when a cybersecurity attack will happen, we know it will happen repeatedly without the proper security precautions in place. In January of 2022 alone, roughly 5,000 schools saw their websites go dark due to ransomware and we do not see this slowing down. The trajectory of events is on the rise and now is the time to tighten up cybersecurity in educational institutions. 

Cloud-based, highly modular, and automated cybersecurity architecture makes it much more practical for the education sector to control the uncontrollable. 

When dealing with extremely sensitive information, like personal data for children and young adults, the situation is critical. School boards and Colleges need to do everything in their power to protect themselves, their staff, and their students. Upgrading infrastructure and security policies is paramount.

Don’t let funding prevent you from protecting your students and staff from cyber threats. Download our Funding and Incentives Guide to understand your options!


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Ken Perkins

Biography coming soon.

Megan Miller

Megan Miller’s energy and passion for learning flow into all aspects of her work. As the Growth Manager, North America, she brings a background in sciences which she has transitioned to the tech sector in her role at Difenda.

With a Bachelors of Science in Geology, Megan is a lifelong learner who is voracious about learning anything she can get her hands on about cybersecurity. Her positive energy has built a sales strategy with a focus on expanding in the United States while nurturing the Canadian presence. She is responsible for recruiting and training the sales team. Together with the company’s leadership, she creates the sales process and the company’s product strategy in order to better serve the customer base. This ensures that our customers have a highly trained and highly motivated team to help them every step of the way, Megan has completed Microsoft SC-900 training and working towards mastering Microsoft.

Whether at work or play, Megan is fully committed. She took her love of hockey all the way to the semi-professional level as a competitive hockey player. Megan loves all things sports including water skiing, scuba diving, cycling, and snowboarding. She also enjoys time with family and reading about alternative energy, innovation, and cybersecurity.

Natasha Phanor

As the Microsoft Partner Manager at Difenda, Natasha Phanor is responsible for driving growth within our Microsoft Partnership. With six years in the industry, she offers a fresh, energetic approach, and the ability to focus on our customer’s needs throughout the entire process. Natasha has the innate ability to foresee customer needs and solve problems before they arise, which creates a smooth road for each customer she encounters.

As the recipient of the Outstanding Services Partner of the Year Award in 2018, it is clear that Natasha responds quickly to customer needs, creates a platform for understanding a customer’s business requirements, and walks them through the process to ensure their complete satisfaction.

In her spare time, Natasha is as energetic and passionate as she is on the job. A self-proclaimed foodie-extraordinaire, she enjoys dinner parties, traveling, downhill skiing, hiking, biking, and reading. Natasha has a Bachelor of Fine Arts, specializing in Dance, from Ryerson University.

Lisa Templeton

Lisa Templeton is the perfect combination of human empathy and technological prowess. In her role as People Services Manager, she takes care of our team members to support them in their daily work, as well as on their personal life paths. Happy employees make for happy customers, and Lisa excels in giving our employees the tools they need for success in order to become the best possible versions of themselves. Along with employee formation, she shines in the service delivery support domain to continuously improve the process. Her 24 years of experience in IT Operations and Service Management help her create quality and efficiency at Difenda.

Having attended the Information Systems Management certificate program at Ryerson University, and with various other certifications to her credit, Lisa is perceptive and innovative when it comes to information technology, but also sensitive to the needs of her human constituents. Responsible for achieving the first privately owned company HDI Support Center certification in Canada, she has also designed and implemented Service Management excellence programs and 24×7 IT Operations departments for multiple IT organizations, and has created corporate rewards and recognition programs to keep her employees engaged and motivated.

On the personal side, Lisa passionately supports the cause of breast cancer research, having lost her mother to the disease. She reads voraciously in her spare time, and enjoys the art of home renovation. The summer months also bring time on her boat and exploring new hiking trails.

Miranda McCurdy

Miranda McCurdy uses her myriad super powers in all aspects of her job and personal life. As the Marketing Director at Difenda, Miranda McCurdy brings over a decade of experience to the table, which includes expertise in all facets of operations, brand management, and content marketing, as well as a multitude of successful strategies for the ever-expanding digital world. She is an expert at simplifying the message the company is trying to send, filling in gaps in the information, and strengthening the content in order to create compelling narratives that strengthen the brand and developing programs that bring teams together.

With several Addy Awards issued by the American Advertising Federation Cleveland to her credit, and her never say die attitude, Miranda understands both the broader picture and the minute details that are needed to successfully market a product. With her abilities to harness both the talent needed to spread the message, as well as to create the message itself, she is an integral cog in the company’s ability to communicate with customers and other stakeholders.

When she is not building a brand, she shares her ability to fill the gaps in her community by volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, the Special Olympics, and the Charleston Food Bank. In her spare time, Miranda spends time with her family, enjoys fitness and health, paddle boarding, reading, and arts and crafts.

Juliana Zaremba

Connections are the name of the game for Juliana Zaremba. As Strategic Partnerships Director, she is responsible for Difenda’s channel partnerships and the development and ownership of the channel partner program. She is also responsible for the global Microsoft Partnership, including the creation of strategic plans with MSFT contacts that will facilitate the continued growth of the business and establish certification and training protocols in all security technologies. Her role is multifaceted, as she acquires partners, manages relationships with them, and develops strategies that will provide cutting edge security solutions to our customer base. Another integral aspect of her job is to facilitate growth.

With a Bachelor’s in Math from the University of Waterloo and 14 years of experience from her previous roles at Herjavec Group and CDW, her cutting edge focus and ability to develop long-lasting relationships and strategies provides world class security solutions to our customer base.

Juliana thrives on connections outside of work as well. She is a philanthropist and contributor with Women4Change based in Hamilton. This group of local women is passionate about supporting local causes, and she focuses her efforts around Women in STEM. She is also a member of Club Italia in Niagara Falls and supports their youth events throughout the year.

When not managing the Microsoft Global partnership, Juliana enjoys reading, often reading several books at once. Juliana enjoys exploring the Niagara Escarpment with her family, as well as sharing meals and experiences with her extended family. Juliana’s competitive nature has her always trying new things, like Whoop band challenges and Peloton.

Jeffry Jacob

Biography Coming Soon