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New campaign to keep cyber nasties out of schools

(Last Updated On: June 22, 2022)

Cyber criminals don’t care if you’re busy or distracted or not quite up to speed on security – if they get into your school, they can wreak havoc. That’s why the Ministry’s new Cyber Security in School team has launched its ‘Say No to Cyber Nasties’ campaign and has five tips to help you keep your school safe.

Cyber nasties can come in various forms, such as malware, phishing attacks, trojans, worms, and ransomware. Taking precautions and shoring up your defences to these threats is way easier than having to deal with a cyber-attack.

Much like putting on a seatbelt when you get in a car, taking a quick preventative cyber security step, like enabling two-factor authentication, is a simple action we can all take to greatly reduce the chances of being bogged down in the disruption of a cyber attack. And, thankfully, help is at hand.

The Ministry of Education’s new Cyber Security in Schools team is dedicated to helping schools improve their cyber security and has just launched its ‘Say No to Cyber Nasties’ campaign. To get you started, the team has five tips to help keep your school cyber safe:

Tip 1: Make sure your passwords are up to scratch

Reused and weak passwords are one of the ways cyber nasties can sneak into schools. To keep them out, all passwords should be strong, unique and secret. We’ve all got lots of passwords that we need to keep our school systems running, so it sounds like a pain to make sure they’re all different to each other. But it’d be even more of a pain to lose access to all of your data. What makes a good password? Make it more than 12 characters – if that feels too challenging, think of using a sentence instead of a word as a passphrase.

Tip 2: Add another layer of defence with two-factor authentication (2FA)

This the strongest way to keep cyber nasties out of school accounts. Even if an attacker has a password, they will need more details, like a code from an app, to get into an account.

According to Microsoft and Google, 2FA can prevent up to 99 per cent of untargeted attacks from happening. It’s a crucial control measure to protect data and information at your school.

It’s most important for accounts or systems that store important, sensitive, or confidential information, like email, financial accounts and student management systems.

Tip 3: Backups will help you get back up and running

Making a backup means making a copy of your data that you can quickly restore if it’s lost, leaked or stolen by a cyber nasty. This process involves creating an up-to-date copy of your data. Then if you lose your data for any reason, you can quickly replace it with the copy you made. Data loss can happen by a device being damaged, a cyber-attack, or a lost or stolen computer.

It’s easy to overlook and forget about some types of information. Start with doing an audit of where you hold and store data for your school and figure out the best way to back it up. The team recommends having a cloud copy and a physical copy of your most important information.

Tip 4: Antivirus can help keep the nasties out

An antivirus program scans your computer for cyber nasties like malicious software and automatically screens out malware, viruses, spam attacks, and other cyber threats. Once it’s installed, all you need to do is ensure it’s updated whenever a patch is released and have it set to run on a regular cycle, for example daily or weekly.

Tip 5: Staying up to date with your updates keeps your devices safe

Keeping your software and devices updated is one of the easiest and most effective ways of protecting yourself from a cyber attack. New versions of software are available all the time. Sometimes they’re releasing new features, and sometimes they fix weaknesses or vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities are parts of the app or software that can be used for purposes other than those intended. It’s through these that attackers can gain access to your device and your information.

Where you can, set your devices and systems to update automatically so you don’t need to worry. This includes all your technology products, such as smart TVs, printers, local servers, and routers.

Want to find out more? The Ministry’s new online cyber security hub has information to help you get started, and we’ve included resources you can share with your staff and teachers to help them get to the right information, too.

Make sure you say ‘no’ to nasties. You can find out more information about how to keep them out of your school at education.govt.nz/cyber-security

Article supplied by the Ministry of Education’s Cyber Security in School team.

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