FBI Outlines Cyber Threats Facing Schools and Secure Cyber Practices


Cyber crime is an increasing concern worldwide. It affects personal data and private businesses, but it can interfere with public spaces such as schools.

Cyber attackers see schools as a vulnerable target. With learning and education moving online, both at home in the classroom, cyber attackers see this as an opportunity to hack computer systems. 

The FBI, CISA, and MS-ISAC have closely been assessing the cyber threats that schools are facing. A recent report outlines how cyber attacks are occurring in schools of all levels, from kindergarten through high school, and suggestions for secure practices schools should follow. 

With cyber threats increasing in schools, it is crucial to implement secure cyber practices to your online systems.

The Biggest Cyber Threats Schools Are Facing

Here is a list of the most prominent cyber threats schools are facing and what to look out for. 

Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware attacks are among the most prominent cyber crime hackers committed to schools. The hacking process results in a slower system and disabled functions, which can hinder the most basic functions. This slows learning for students and can prevent teachers from accessing tools and data. According to the recent study from intelligence agencies, ransomware attacks have doubled within six months, from 28% to 57% in schools. 

Malware Interference 

Malware interference causes damage to computer systems, programs, and servers. The 

top 10 malware strains found through MS-ISAC include:

  • Shlayer
  • Zeus
  • Agent Tesla
  • CoinMiner
  • Kovter
  • IRC Bot
  • NanoCore
  • Gh0st
  • Cerber
  • Dridex

Strains target school programs such as Microsoft Windows and Adobe Flash Player. The attack involves sharing fake adverts, which, when clicked, allows the hacker to access data and information. 

Social Engineering

Social engineering is a common hacking technique that involves phishing tactics. Most scenarios include requesting personal data, confidential information, passwords, and clicking attachments, giving the hacker access to your system. Hackers will use information about you, often found on social media or other public records, to tailor emails and spam so you’ll be more likely to click on it.

This hacking form can cause student data and the schooling system to become vulnerable, especially if the child is using the computer and clicks on a malicious link accidentally. 

Technological Vulnerabilities 

The FBI found that organizations are left open and exposed to potential future threats when hackers attack ports. Hackers keep a low profile to exploit systems regularly. 

When systems are exposed for too long or are left unattended, hackers can exploit end-of-life software. When a system reaches end-of-life, the computer users will no longer receive threat alert updates or support. These cyber-threats leave schools vulnerable and prone to attacks.

Practices Schools Can Use For Protection

Both the FBI and CIA encourage schools, and all businesses, to upgrade their cybersecurity. Suggestions include regularly changing passwords, using multi-factor authentication, disabling unused ports, regular scans, and creating backups.

IT experts across the country agree. Cody Rivers, the Chief Technology Officer of AIS—an IT company in Johnson County, Indiana, specializing in providing IT support and security for businesses—said, “With the increasingly sophisticated methods of cyber attacks we’re seeing, it’s more important than ever for every organization and individual to protect their information through use of strong password hygiene, multi-factor authentication, and other cybersecurity strategies in a multi-layered approach to security.”

Installing malware, ransomware, and password protection software will increase security and reduce the vulnerability of cyberthreats. With schools being a prominent hacking target, it is crucial to ensure you have safe cyber practices to protect data, teachers, and students.

All legal bodies suggest schools to introduce new security plans for in-house computers as well as student computers. At-home learning involves students logging in or sharing data with school systems, which hackers can breach. Hence, protecting all systems will increase your security and prevent future cyber threats.