How Can Governments Protect Schools Against Cyberattacks ?


In recent years, the education sector in Europe has witnessed a concerning rise in cyberattacks, posing significant threats to students, teachers, and administrators. To address this growing issue, governments must explore additional measures to safeguard educational institutions from cyber threats.

Current Cybersecurity Landscape in European Schools

Previously untouched by cybercrime, European schools are now facing an increasing onslaught of cyberattacks. With the proliferation of digital tools in education, coupled with advancements in technology, schools have become prime targets for malicious actors. Shockingly, statistics reveal that educational institutions in the U.K. are more likely to experience cybersecurity incidents than businesses. From 2022-2023, a staggering percentage of schools reported cyberattacks or data breaches, underscoring the urgent need for enhanced cybersecurity measures.

Emerging Cybersecurity Trends in Education

Several trends have emerged in cybersecurity within the education sector:

  • Rise of Ransomware: Schools are increasingly falling victim to ransomware attacks due to inadequate security measures and critical infrastructure vulnerabilities.
  • Higher Education Disproportionate Targeting: Further and higher education institutions are particularly vulnerable, attracting double the number of cyberattacks and data breaches compared to primary schools.
  • State-Sponsored Cyberattacks: Nation-states and state-sponsored attackers are on the rise, posing threats to valuable intellectual property and critical infrastructure.
  • Teleconferencing Vulnerabilities: Remote learning through teleconferencing has introduced cybersecurity risks, leaving students susceptible to phishing and other malicious attacks.

Common Cybersecurity Threats Facing Schools

Educational institutions are vulnerable to various cybersecurity threats, including data theft, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, ransomware, and social engineering tactics like phishing.

Reasons for Targeting Schools

Schools are lucrative targets for cyberattacks due to the valuable data they possess, including personal information of students and staff. Attackers exploit this data for financial gain, identity theft, or other malicious purposes.

Government Initiatives to Protect Schools

European governments have initiated several measures to bolster cybersecurity in schools:

  • Raising Cybersecurity Awareness: The European Agency for Cybersecurity is conducting training campaigns to empower students and teachers to recognize and respond to cyber threats.
  • Developing Cybersecurity Skills: Efforts are underway to develop cybersecurity skills in higher education institutions through pilot projects and training programs.
  • Enhancing Device Security: Proposed regulations aim to ensure the security of internet-connected devices in educational settings.

Additional Actions Governments Can Take

Despite these efforts, more can be done to defend European schools against cyber threats:

  • Provide In-Depth Training: Integrate cybersecurity training into the curriculum to ensure widespread awareness and preparedness among students.
  • Publish Actionable Guidance: Governments should publish modernized guidance on cybersecurity threats tailored to administrators, teachers, and students, making it accessible and actionable.
  • Provide More Funding: Offer financial support and grants to schools to strengthen their cybersecurity defenses, especially for those with limited budgets.
  • Establish a Task Force: Proactively establish investigative task forces to address education-based cyberattacks, aiding in identifying cybercriminals and mitigating financial losses.