Surveys conducted in 2018 showed that, out of 17 vulnerable industries, education institutions had the weakest cybersecurity protections.

Many K-12 schools now face serious scrutiny because of their failure to offer a robust security plan. This may prevent their students’ data from being safe. The McAfee Labs 2019 Threat Predictions Report shows that the cyber underworld is evolving and consolidating, and we can expect growing cybercrime networks in 2019.

The report helps highlight three top security concerns for schools in 2019.

AI Threats

Cybercriminals are increasingly using artificial intelligence as evasion techniques to avoid detection and circumvent security. They will use AI to detect and find infected environments or automate target selection and avoid detection at the same time.

On the bright side, if applied right away, school IT departments can use AI to spot these attacks much faster than before. This will help to protect all vulnerable places, including email gateways and endpoint protection.

Cloud Security

Educational workload is migrating to the public cloud and related applications, which makes cloud security a big concern. The McAfee report states that about 21 percent of data stored in the cloud is sensitive and much of it is the education sector.

Cybercriminals will use sophisticated technologies to gauge when the cloud or credentials have been misconfigured. Security risk professionals need use the same technology to automate the applications of governance and compliance controls to help build a secure network.

Voice-Controlled Digital Assistants

Voice technology has become a pervasive phenomenon in all sectors of our lives. The new generation of students uses voice more than others. Voice-controlled digital assistants are revolutionizing how teachers and students interact.

Cybercriminals will try and use malicious codes to infect and attack these digital assistants along with other IoT devices. Botnets supplied by these bad actors can launch a DDoS attack and steal personal data.

It may be harder to detect these hacks in the beginning, but school districts should be aware of the potential threats related to the voice assistants. For example, if the voice assistants are connected to central control servers and can open doors, then schools have more than a cyber threat at hand.

One area of great concern is that there seems to be greater collaboration among cybercriminals who want to exploit the underground market. In some cases, they have more funds at their disposal than our cash-strapped school districts.

Increasing reliance on open environments and the use of mobile and internet of things technology will make our schools more vulnerable. Applying the right tools and strategies will enable the schools to protect the sensitive data of students, faculty and other employees.